How to Give Feedback 💛
How to empower your teammates and build trust by giving feedback the right way.
Feedback is one of the most used words in business, and also one of the most literal.
If you look it up in a dictionary, feedback occurs when the outputs of a system are routed back as inputs. So the system literally feeds back into itself.
The simplest systems to include mechanical feedback were invented in Egypt more than 2000 years ago, and were basically ancestors of modern float valves. The first adoption of the word feedback, instead, is attributed to Nobel laureate Karl Ferdinand Braun, who used it in some early 1900s papers around electronic circuits.
Feedback today can refer either to systems or people. They both receive feedback to assess their performance and make it better over time.
As managers, it’s on us to create this loop for our reports. It’s our responsibility to clearly articulate what is expected of them, what is working well, and what they can do differently instead.
Giving feedback, though, it’s hard.
Negative feedback is especially tough to deliver, for two reasons. As humans:
We want to be liked — we want other people to like us, and we instinctively believe that negative feedback makes us liked less.
We don’t want to hurt feelings — we think people may react negatively to criticism, and we don’t want them to be sad, or angry.
Both these concerns can be countered by giving feedback the right way. You can effectively create a culture and processes where 1) people like you more because you give them feedback, and 2) people are eager to receive it because it supercharges their growth.
This article is meant to be a comprehensive guide about how to give feedback in a way that enables these qualities. It covers:
🔢 The feedback quadrant — core principles about good feedback.
✍️ How to formulate feedback — how to be clear, but kind.
🔍 What you should give feedback on — the relationship between positive and negative feedback.
🗓️ When to give feedback — processes and tactics to make sure you have a constant exchange.
As always, it draws from my own experience, from plenty of conversations with the best managers I know, and from real-world case studies and research.
Let’s dive in 👇