4 Very Different Methods of Giving Effective, Fair Feedback

According to a Zenger and Folkman survey, 92% of respondents agreed that appropriate feedback is effective at improving performance in the workplace. Despite this, providing negative or constructive feedback can still be challenging, especially as a leader in the public sector.

Three public sector employees discussing different methods of giving feedback

There are many different methods of giving feedback and it often depends on the situation when deciding which path to take. This blog explains four different methods of giving feedback, along with examples of how and when to use them effectively.

  1. Feed Forward
  2. Prepare-Listen-Act Model
  3. Praise
  4. Coaching
  5. How to Receive Feedback

1. Feed Forward

A phrase first coined by Marshall Goldsmith, feed forward is the idea of delivering feedback by focusing on the future rather than reflecting on past events. The idea is based on the fact that individuals are unable to change what has already happened, but they can implement better practices in future circumstances.

How to Use

In typical feedback, you might say, “Your report was difficult to understand.” However, using feed forward, you’d say, “Next time, why not try adding sections to your report, or perhaps a presentation? I think it would make all information you provide a little easier to digest.”

As Goldsmith writes, ‘It is more productive to help people be right than prove them wrong.’

By looking to the future, your employees will be more likely to take the criticism on board professionally rather than personally. Feed forward is a more positive way of delivering feedback.

Work with individuals to identify what can be done better in the future and set goals to ensure they have something to work towards.

When to Use

Feed forward is a great way to focus your employees on their personal development without making them feel defensive or hurt. The method is beneficial if you want to make changes to your team’s way of working to realign and meet goals.

The feed forward method works in most feedback scenarios. However, logged, written feedback would be more appropriate for more serious matters.

2. Prepare-Listen-Act Model

The Prepare-Listen-Act model — similar to the DESC model (Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences) — will ensure your team fully understands what needs to be implemented to address a specific issue.

How to Use

It’s a three-step process that will allow you to understand and identify a way to move past a problem within your team. The steps in this model are simple:

  • Prepare: Think about the recent issues that have occurred. Plan which examples you are going to raise.
  • Listen: Listen to what they have to say. Start the one-on-one conversation by hearing an explanation for recent patterns of behaviour or drops in performance.
  • Act: Discuss how you’ll move past the issue with the team or individual. Document clear goals and next steps.

When to Use

The Prepare-Listen-Act method is most effective if you wish to see a quick change in behaviour or improvement in performance from a team or individual. By setting measurable goals for your team or an individual, it’s then their responsibility to improve performance. Ensure you clarify the consequences if these goals aren’t met.

Hopefully, by listening to their comments, you’ll gain a better understanding of the situation, allowing you to focus on the root cause of the issue.

3. Praise

Praise is one of the most effective ways to motivate your team, as employees enjoy feeling appreciated in the workplace. Your team will be more motivated to continue their development if you notice improvements that they’ve made in their performance.

How to Use

A challenge in providing feedback is the defensiveness of an employee that can often follow criticism. It’s crucial to ensure a healthy balance between praise and feedback to maintain morale.

Although praise adds to positive company culture, too much can lead to complacency. To praise effectively, consider these tips:

  • Be specific about what you’re praising and don’t repeatedly praise the same thing.
  • Be sincere — your team will know if you don’t mean what you say.
  • Share praise with the wider team. Your praise will go much further if an individual’s colleagues can add to the positive feedback.
  • Don’t consistently heap praise onto one person. A sense of favouritism can lead to hostility in the workplace.

When to Use

Appreciation is one of the most powerful motivational tools in the workplace. Praise should be used when an individual has:

  • Helped a colleague with a task outside their remit.
  • Gone above and beyond expectations.
  • Taken action on recent feedback and improved their performance as a result.
  • Suggested an idea that has benefitted your organisation.
  • Added to the workplace culture positively.

4. Coaching

Coaching is a hands-on approach which allows you to guide individuals towards a specific goal. This could be learning new software or improving presentational skills. Coaching is most effective if you’re an expert in your field and can provide sufficient training to your employee.

How to Use

Different people respond to different learning methods, so it’s essential to gauge whether you believe an individual would benefit from direct coaching before proceeding. Firstly, identify the end goal of the coaching sessions. What do you want the individual to achieve? How frequent will the sessions need to be?

Creating a roadmap will allow you to set goals for the individual and clarify how long the training will last. It’s important not to use the sessions as an opportunity to micromanage. Encourage creativity and effective behaviours when you see them.

End each session with a task to ensure they’ve absorbed the information you’ve provided. Some individuals will benefit from a ‘do’ rather than a ‘listen’ approach to learning.

When to Use

It’s best to use coaching when you need to closely monitor an individual’s progress with a specific task or new skill.

Coaching can also take time, especially if you’re tackling a technical subject such as a complex piece of software. It’s crucial to analyse whether the amount of time you spend coaching will benefit your organisation.

This method is mostly helpful for new starters but can also be used if an individual wants to broaden their skill-set. Coaching sessions can be useful when:

  • Learning new software.
  • Someone has received a promotion and assumed new responsibilities.
  • An individual is starting at a company.
  • Individuals are consistently not hitting targets.

There are many different methods of giving feedback to enact change. The decisions you make when providing feedback will ensure whether you are an effective leader.

How to Receive Feedback

Giving feedback is one thing, but receiving it is another - especially if it's not always want you want or expect to hear. 

As you know, the point of feedback is learning and understanding what you need to improve in order to do your role more effectively or efficiently. Here's 3 quick things that can help you accept constructive feedback:

  1. Be open to growth: Whether it's thinking of ways to improve based on your feedback or understand potential mistakes you made in the past and how to avoid them next time. Feedback is an opportunity for growth. It's important to not take feedback as criticism, but ways you can improve. 
  2. Think about how to implement the feedback: When you're receiving the feedback, make sure you actively listen to show you will actually implement the feedback they're giving. 
  3. Be appreciative for the feedback: The person giving you feedback has taken the time to think about ways you can improve in order to help you grow. It's important to be thankful for this opportunity by showing you've listened and understood their points. 

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