In order to be constructive, feedback must be mindful, purposeful, well-informed, and well-intentioned. It must also be clearly understood and easy to act upon. The purpose of constructive feedback is not to reward or punish; it is to share valuable information and insights so the entire team will be in a better position to accomplish its goals.
Whether you’re giving or receiving feedback after an interview, portfolio review, annual employee performance session, or client presentation you can benefit from ideas in the highly regarded book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. This book offers a lot of insight, along with a helpful checklist to keep in mind, whether you want to share notes with your colleagues or want to listen more deeply to mutually uncover opportunities for improvement.
“Start With the Heart”
Your observations will be of more value if you practice seeing (and feeling) the world from the recipient’s perspective. Likewise, if you can hear the hopes, fears, and emotions behind the feedback you receive, you may be more able to appreciate it as a gift. If you struggle with compassion or often find yourself on the defensive, the toolkit of Nonviolent Communication can change your perspective.
“Stay in Dialogue”
For feedback to be constructive, both parties must talk to each other, not at each other. Our relevant content on active listening has workable ideas on how to keep the paths of communication open.
“Make it Safe”
Safety is one of the most fundamental human needs; if safety is in doubt, addressing higher-level needs is not as easy. Part of building strong relationships is giving colleagues space, to be honest with each other without anyone feeling threatened. The most constructive moments happen in a calm environment within an atmosphere of mutual respect and only after any tensions or distractions have been dealt with.
“Don’t Get Hooked By Emotion (Or Hook Them)”
Clear communication happens above the noise and static of aggression, manipulation, or games of status. To give and receive constructive feedback, you must work around any emotional tactics and triggers and maintain your focus on what is true, what is useful, and the objectives you share.
“Agree on a Mutual Purpose”
Make sure constructive feedback is shared on a common ground. This means setting your goals upfront, being transparent about what you hope to gain, and recognizing each other as allies on the same journey, headed in the same direction.
“Separate Facts from Story”
We, humans, excel at constructing narratives; we use this skill to find patterns in our experiences and to make sense of the world. To remain open to new information and wisdom, we must practice setting aside our stories and pay attention to things objectively, as they are, in a way both parties can understand and agree upon. Things are almost never precisely what they may seem!
“Agree on a Clear Action Plan”
Every transmission of constructive feedback should conclude with a set of concrete, realistic, shared goals. The best feedback often results in a plan of action, and once the plan of action is followed through to everyone’s satisfaction, then you know the feedback was constructive!
At Artisan Creative, we believe the surest path to professional growth is through better communication. Get in touch today and start the conversation!
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