Side with the person, not the problem. Three pivot types of feedback and how to deliver them

Side with the person, not the problem. Three pivot types of feedback and how to deliver them

Anyone who knows me will also know I’m passionate about the potential delivering feedback has for enhancing personal growth and building a culture of continuous improvement. When you approach feedback with empathy and a deliberate, constructive mindset, enabling individuals and teams to thrive in challenging environments becomes second nature, and it can work wonders.

Recently I was invited to lead a discussion about feedback for Agency Hackers ‘Agency Leadership Programme 2024’. There were so many excellent questions and stories shared from leaders who obviously truly care about improving how they deliver feedback, and I’ve cherry picked a few valuable take aways from the session. 

The most important takeaway from the chat for me was to help attendees recognise there are three pivotal types of feedback: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation.

But what do these different type of feedback mean? 

  1. Appreciation Feedback: communicates value for both the work and the person, acknowledging their contributions and reinforcing their worth within the team.
  • Coaching Feedback: is designed to help the individual adapt, improve, and learn, focusing on development rather than judgment.
  • Evaluation Feedback provides a clear stance on where an individual stands in relation to expectations, offering a comparative or numerical assessment of performance.

Above all else, side with the person, not the problem. 

Below I’ve summarised six key themes and actionable strategies to enhance feedback practices for the above types of feedback. 

  1. The Importance of a Safe Space for Feedback

Creating an environment where team members feel secure in sharing and receiving feedback is not a nice to have, it’s essential. A safe feedback environment is one free from fear of judgement or negative repercussions, encouraging openness and honesty. Leaders can establish this by consistently emphasising feedback’s purpose as a tool for growth, not criticism.

Action steps include:

  • Setting clear expectations around feedback
  • Modelling vulnerability by seeking feedback for themselves – it’s a strength to be able to ask your teams to provide you with feedback and a sign of trust if they feel they can provide it.
  • Publicly recognising constructive feedback exchanges.
  1. Customisation of Feedback

“Everyone hears feedback differently and needs different types of feedback at different times”

Understanding that each of your team members has unique needs and preferences for receiving feedback is crucial. Customising feedback involves acknowledging individual differences and adapting the feedback method accordingly. For instance, some may prefer direct feedback, while others might benefit from a more nuanced approach.

Leaders can achieve this by:

  • Having initial discussions with team members about their feedback preferences.
  • Observing team members’ responses to different feedback styles and adjusting accordingly.
  • Encouraging team members to reflect on and communicate what feedback methods work best for them.
  1. Feedback as a Development Tool

“Information about a person’s performance, used as a basis for improvement”.

Reframing feedback from a critique to a development opportunity can transform how team members perceive and react to feedback. Leaders should emphasise feedback’s role in personal and professional growth, making it an integral part of the team’s development strategy.

To implement this:

  • Link feedback to individual and team goals, showing how feedback contributes to achieving these objectives.
  • Celebrate improvements and learnings derived from feedback, reinforcing its value.
  • Ensure feedback is forward-looking, focusing on opportunities for growth rather than dwelling on past mistakes.
  1. Empathy and Understanding in Feedback

“How does feedback ‘feel’ to the person receiving it?”

Empathy is the bedrock of effective feedback. It involves understanding the team member’s perspective and framing feedback in a way that is supportive and constructive.

Leaders can enhance their empathetic delivery by:

  • Practising active listening during feedback sessions, showing genuine interest in the team member’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Tailoring feedback to the individual’s emotional and professional state, ensuring it’s delivered in a supportive manner.
  • Being mindful of the timing and setting of feedback to ensure the recipient is receptive.
  1. Active Listening in Feedback

“Listen like your life depends on it.”

Active listening not only aids in understanding the recipient’s perspective but also demonstrates respect and validation. It’s about fully concentrating on the speaker, understanding their message, responding thoughtfully, and remembering the discussion.

Leaders can practise active listening by:

  • Maintaining eye contact and avoiding distractions during feedback sessions.
  • Paraphrasing or summarising what the team member has said to confirm understanding.
  • Asking open-ended questions to encourage deeper discussion and clarity.
  1. Feedback and Organisational Culture

Feedback practices significantly impact organisational culture, influencing employee engagement, performance, and retention. A culture that values and effectively utilises feedback is one where continuous improvement is the norm, and employees feel valued and motivated.

Leaders can cultivate such a culture by:

  • Implementing regular, structured feedback processes, such as 360-degree feedback or regular one-on-one check-ins.
  • Encouraging a feedback loop across all organisational levels, fostering an environment of mutual respect and continuous learning.
  • Recognising and rewarding effective feedback practices, thereby reinforcing the positive impact of feedback on organisational culture.

Effective feedback is an art that requires sensitivity, adaptability, and commitment. By creating a safe space for feedback, customising the feedback approach, leveraging feedback as a developmental tool, practising empathy, and active listening, and understanding the profound impact of feedback on organisational culture, leaders can unlock the full potential of their teams.

I hope this helps you to build better feedback practices, I’d love to hear how you get on.  



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