Giving Feedback: Productive and Constructive

Sam Kalk  •  Published on Dec 30, 2020  •  5 min read

We all need to develop the habit of giving frequent, regular feedback to our colleagues. The pursuit of excellence is more likely in an organizational culture that includes the routine practice of feedback throughout all levels of the organization. An organization that lacks this practice will be less likely to continue improving and learning, and far more likely to tolerate mediocrity.

 

Because we are only able to partially evaluate our own work and behavior, feedback is essential if we want to progress in our career. While giving feedback is a required expectation for managers and project leaders, it is also extremely helpful to hear feedback from other colleagues who are in a prime seat to observe our work products and team behavior. 

The good news is that the most frequent feedback we should give and receive is positive feedback. However, in order to really excel, we also need the occasional constructive feedback. Research has demonstrated that the ideal ratio is 5 positives for every constructive. Even 3:1 demonstrates excellent outcomes for individuals and the business. Both are essential for growth and development.

Positive and constructive feedback affect our thinking processes differently. 

Positive feedback (and positive emotional experiences generally) tends to broaden and build our point of view. This allows us to be more creative, think outside of the box, and identify new solutions. 

 

Constructive feedback tends to focus our attention on the problem, resulting in a form of tunnel vision. This tunnel vision is helpful when there is a real obstacle that needs our full focus. 

 

We hope that the feedback we give always leads to positive impact. This is why we don’t refer to “negative” feedback. Of course, it is possible to give negative feedback. No doubt we all have had those experiences and there is a reason we are hesitant to give it. It can hurt, anger or confuse us. It’s often given in an emotional moment and doesn’t have the intent to help us or our relationships with others.

Constructive feedback tends to focus our attention on the problem, helpful when there is a real obstacle that needs our full focus.

The best way to ensure a good outcome is to make sure that we communicate at the outset that our intention is to be supportive and helpful. The research demonstrates that the first 20 seconds of a possibly difficult conversation is the most important influence on whether the outcome is positive. If we can convey an attitude of empathy, concern and support at the outset, the receiver is likely to be open to what we have to say. On the other hand, if we are perceived as threatening their well-being, it is unlikely that the conversation will go well.

Examples

Here are some contrasting examples of providing feedback on a work product that illustrate this point:

  1. Your point of view is muddled and lacks any conviction.

  2. Your point of view is really exciting and critically important to the client. I think we can find a way to engage them by emphasizing it early in the presentation.

  3. We need to talk about some significant problems with your time management.

  4. I have some thoughts about how you might be able to better manage your workload in order to make the deadlines we’ve committed to with our clients.  

 

The most effective feedback, whether it is positive or constructive, is specific rather than general. You may notice that the second  items of the examples above (#2 & #4) give more specific information than the first (#1 & #3).
 

As opposed to saying, “Great job on the presentation this morning!”  You could give more specific feedback:

 

  1. I particularly liked the way that you illustrated your point of view with the demonstration of the menu bar

  2. It was really helpful to hear how you prepared your intern for the client presentation.

  3. Your slides were so clean! They didn’t distract me with lots to read so I could listen to what you had to say.

  4. I loved the visual display of your results. I could see in an instant the difference between the two groups.

We suggest using the Motis Grow Feedback function to record pieces of feedback, both positive and constructive, so they are easily accessible. Looking back on these pieces of Feedback on the Timeline can remind you of the hard work undertaken thus far to develop as an employee, and keep everyone accountable to hitting the organizational goals that the company sets out to achieve. 

 

If you’re new to Motis Grow, I recommend checking out the Feedback function and giving yourself a piece of feedback, perhaps a piece of gratitude about hard work completed this year or an observation of how you can develop some key skills for the future.

 

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