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The Role Of Constructive Feedback

We all give and receive constructive feedback. The question is... how can we best give performance feedback to help others in their quest to improve.

Research on the power of positive reinforcement identifies that constructive recommendations have been found to play very much a secondary or subordinating role when giving feedback.

The main key for giving effective constructive feedback is it's ratio to positive feedback. Glowing positive reinforcement plays the primary role by providing 5 parts of the comment, to 1 portion of kind and gentle corrective feedback!

So, the main piece of the secret is... don't overdo the 'constructive' aspect of any feedback or criticism!

Why We Are Giving Constructive Feedback

This is a great question to ask yourself... why are you giving feedback?

You likely want to help the person improve their performance, and ... you're giving them feedback because:

  1. The recipient doesn't know how to do the task properly, or how to do it better.

    • There is an important distinction here... chances are that the person knows they are not doing things very well. They just don't know how to do it better.

      Think about when you are learning a new task. Who is often your biggest critic? Yep, you are!

      We all recognize things we could have done better. So if there is already one person (ie. yourself) listing all the things that should be improved, we can be sure we don't need another person repeating it all! The thing is, often we just don't really know how to do it better,.. we don't know what steps to implement in order to improve.

  2. The person may not be aware that they are doing something incorrectly or ineffectively.

    • Certainly there may be times when the person is doing or not doing something that distracts from their performance, and they are blissfully unaware.

      As an excellent evaluator, you have the opportunity to make the person aware of the shortcoming, and offer them a technique that will fill the need that they are not yet meeting.

In giving corrective feedback you identify something that the person could be doing more effectively, whether it is something they are aware of or not. Then you let them know specifically, through an effective format (see below), how to improve that aspect.

Remember, when giving constructive feedback you are likely speaking to the individuals biggest critic. So, serve your appraisal with healthy portions of positive reinforcement and sensitivity.

Format For Effective Constructive Feedback

The role of the evaluator can be likened to a project manager on a construction site. In giving corrective performance feedback, you identify what needs to be done, draw up the plan for that improvement, and let the builder, ie. the person, know how to implement it.

In developing your feedback skills according to the format here, you are also putting positive energy toward your personal leadership development. Ensure that you make your recommendation:

  1. Precise

    Give an example of what they did that didn't work so well, or what they didn't do that would have helped. Tell them when this occurred in their performance.

  2. Relevant

    Explain the affect that the ineffective behavior had on you. You may want to state that it is only your opinion or feeling, or how you saw it. We cannot speak for anyone else and certainly not for everyone. Yet, it struck you in a way that you believe it could be better or more effective.

  3. Informative

    Give an example of how the presenter would have been more effective in communicating their message to you (in consideration of that one particular aspect). What could they do differently, to improve. Give an illustration of the correct behavior, if possible.

  4. Instructive

    Give an example or two of how they might practice to improve this aspect of their performance. Again, be specific. Walk through the steps of the practice technique, explaining how doing this exercise will assist them in improving.

  5. Considerate

    Always remember to draw on your most considerate feedback skills and offer a kind appraisal that does not undermine the person's sense of self-worth.

Constructive Feedback Example

In John's presentation, when he was talking about golfing with his mates, he was speaking quite softly.

It made me feel uncomfortable because I was afraid that I might miss an important aspect of the story and then not be able to appreciate his message. I would have felt at ease if John had spoken with a bit more strength in his voice, and I would have known that I was going to hear everything he had to say.

I'd like to suggest a couple of methods to practice that will remedy this. This is a good practice tip for anyone interesting in becoming more familiar with their voice projection.

  • When rehearsing a presentation, turn on a tape recorder and place it 10 feet away from where you will speak.

    Practice speaking 2 sentences in an extremely loud voice, two in a regular voice, and two in a soft voice. Turn the recorder off, hit play, and move 10 feet away to listen to the recording.

    This is helpful to become more acquainted with the strength and capabilities of your own voice.

  • Secondly, you could practice in the company of a friend, family member or a mentor.

    Let the person know what you aim to improve and ask for feedback on that particular aspect.

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