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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Eight Tips for Giving Feedback That Helps, Not Hurts

A new college graduate was enrolled in a graduate education program that thrust future teachers into the classroom with just two weeks of preparation. Besides students, 14 adult observers were in the new teacher's first classroom. One seasoned teacher presented the novice with a list of the 13 dead-end "yes" -"no" questions she had asked, plus a diagram delineating note-passing activity. At the end of the six week program, the new teacher was technically prepared to teach, but she was petrified.

All of us regularly give feedback to colleagues, friends, and family, but not all feedback or advice is helpful. Unfortunately, feedback is often vague, irrelevant, overwhelming, and sometimes unsolicited and destructive.

How To Provide Guidance, not Criticism

  • Focus on the issue, not the person. Say, "How about including success stories in your sales presentation," not "You disappointed me."
  • Provide relevant feedback. A new employee made an outstanding presentation to her team. The boss ignored the insightful content and harped on a typo.
  • Provide specific feedback. If a subordinate submits an unsatisfactory status report, replace comments, such as "vague," with examples of what to include in the report. Without specific guidance, the subordinate will repeat the same mistakes.
  • Break down feedback on performing complex tasks into logical chunks. When helping someone develop a marketing plan, discuss marketing communications separately from market research.
  • Be selective. Some tennis instructors bombard novices who are learning how to serve with detailed advice on where to stand, as well as how to crouch, hold the racket, toss the ball, aim, and swing the racket. Focus on one skill at a time, e.g., the toss.
  • Show, don't tell. If someone performs a task poorly, show the person how to perform it better.
  • Be sincere. Provide both positive and negative feedback when warranted, but don't provide praise that is obviously insincere.
  • Provide timely feedback. Many managers let months go by without telling new employees how they are doing. Often performance declines, and morale plummets.

Giving effective feedback means providing guidance. Identify a problem or issue, and provide constructive suggestions. But don't overdo the positive feedback. We tend to say "good job" so often that people expect praise for just doing their jobs. When a colleague asks for feedback, listen before commenting. He may just want confirmation for his ideas, not your advice.

Happy Holidays and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Copyright © 12/14  Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.     

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