This post is part of our Tips & Tricks series, where we provide concise bullet-points of tips and tricks from fellow leaders on specific topics.

Giving feedback is an important skill for any leader to continue to strengthen. While there is a myriad of different feedback techniques, here are a few tips and tricks.

  1. Ask for permission – It’s important that the person you’re providing feedback to is in the right frame of mind to receive feedback. When feedback is uncalled for, the receiver is more likely to be defensive and less open to your perspective. A great way to combat this is to simply ask for permission eg. ‘Would you be open to some feedback?’ or ‘Can I share my thoughts?’
  2. The ‘Sandwich Theory’ – Research indicates that for every negative comment we receive we need five positive comments to counterbalance. One of the ways to combat this is the ‘Sandwich Theory’. Start your comments with a positive observation, something that the receiver has done well. Then move on to share an aspect that the receiver could improve on. Finish with another positive comment, so they leave feeling good about the encounter and that their work is valued. 
  3. Be specific – When feedback is broad and general, it is hard for the receiver to take meaningful action. Providing specific examples will help the receiver to understand the context as well as reduce any ambiguity. When people don’t understand how to apply your feedback, it’s likely to leave them feeling lost and confused, rather than empowered. 
  4. Be constructive – It’s important to share the action or behavior that you would like to see. Consider the positive need, rather than what you don’t need. To convert a negative need to a positive one, think about what success would look like eg. rather than ‘your shoes are tied wrong’ try ‘here’s how you could tie your shoes more effectively’. This helps the receiver to understand how they can take appropriate action.
  5. Praise in public, criticize in private – This one goes hopefully without saying. People are more open to feedback when they feel in a position of safety. Public criticism can make the receiver feel as though they are losing face in front of their peers. Any criticism should be reserved when one on one. Conversely, praise will carry more weight when shared in a public forum, boosting the receiver’s self-esteem and reinforcing their value amongst others.