Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Are You Following These 3 Rules For Giving Effective Feedback?

As we slowly make our way through the remaining weeks of the year, many organizations are now shifting their focus to an exercise that is often met with disdain and apprehension – the annual performance review. Regardless of whether you’re on the receiving or giving end, most of us tend to view these feedback exercises as unconstructive or a waste of time, in large part because we approach the conversation from the wrong vantage point. Participating at a recent awards gala for one of the regional high schools helped to not only shed some light on this issue, but also on how leaders can make the act of giving feedback to others more instructive and beneficial.

I was invited by the school principal to give a speech and help present awards as part of a ceremony to recognize students who had maintained a high academic standing throughout the previous school year. Although I was honoured and delighted to take part, I have to admit that I did feel some hesitation because I wasn’t an active member of this community when these students achieved these accomplishments. As such, I felt that any recognition on my part of their efforts wouldn’t exactly carry much weight because of that lack of connection.

So I decided to take another approach to my involvement where I used my role in this ceremony to serve as a source of encouragement and support for how these students could build on and attain a similar achievement over the course of the current academic year.

Following the ceremony, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from both the parents and the students of how much they appreciated my participation, and in particular the ideas I had shared in my speech and in the brief comments made to every student as they came up on stage to accept their award.

What I began to realize is that while the teachers, the school principal, and vice-principals were providing the students with a much-deserved recognition for their efforts and accomplishments, my presence and words served more as a form of feedback – of getting the students to view their accomplishment in terms of how they can apply it to their future efforts.

After listening to the comments shared by these students and their parents, three common themes came up which can serve as valuable rules for leaders to follow to ensure the feedback they offer to their employees helps to improve their productivity, if not also strengthening the value of the contributions employees make to their organization.

1. Feedback should give employees a sense of direction and understanding of what matters
I remember one time for my annual performance review, my boss started talking about a team project I was assigned to and how some of the results we achieved were not what he was after and consequently, he wrote in my review that I hadn’t met the expectations for that year. I walked out of his office feeling a mixture of disappointment in myself and frustration with his leadership.

While it’s not hard to understand the disappointment I felt, the frustration was the outcome of his poor communication skills; namely, that while the project was underway and he was getting some of the preliminary data, not once did he pull his team aside and point out that perhaps we were veering off course and providing us with some input on where we needed to shift our efforts. In this performance review, all I came out of the meeting with was the understanding that I hadn’t met his objectives, without any clear input on how I get back on course through the work I was currently doing.

In the case of the students at this awards gala, while the awards themselves were recognizing the accomplishments they attained over the previous school year, the message wasn’t simply about drawing their attention to what they did right. Rather, the focus was on using these accomplishments to provide the students with a sense of direction and purpose; of not treating it as an isolated event, but instead providing them with the context of how it would help them to build a foundation for whatever opportunities they wished to pursue in the future.

Similarly, when providing feedback to your employees, it’s important that leaders frame it with a context of how their accomplishments – and setbacks – can serve to help them and their team move forward, with a particular focus on which direction their employees should be headed. This way, when they leave the performance review, your employees will not only have a clearer sense of what’s expected of them, but of which direction they need to point their current and future efforts towards.

2. Feedback should inform you of your strengths and the value you create
For many of us, the reason why feedback is not sought after more is because we often associate it with negative comments; that the act of receiving feedback is more about someone telling us what we’re doing wrong than providing us with insights about which of our contributions mattered most to our organization.

Of course, the most effective feedback is not to offer employees a shopping list of weaknesses or areas that they need to improve on. Rather, the goal should be to help them understand what unique strengths they bring to the team and consequently, the value they’ve created for the organization. After all, numerous studies have shown that people are motivated to improve not by being told about what they’re doing wrong, but through an understanding of the value they’re able to provide through their contributions.

There’s a reason why many of us who were present at this awards ceremony are expecting to see these students again at the next awards ceremony and it’s not simply because they have ‘the right stuff’. Instead, it’s because these students have been told what their strengths are and can see the value they created from their efforts – the pride they have in themselves as well as that seen in the eyes of their parents.

From that vantage point, it’s not hard to see why they’ll be driven and motivated to achieve this goal again, if not also how leaders can create that internal drive to succeed in their employees as well.

3. Feedback should make you hungry to achieve more
In my speech, one of the things I advised the students to do was to savour this moment and to remember that it was thanks to their hard work, their persistence to overcome the obstacles in their path, and their drive to succeed that they were able to achieve this rare accomplishment amongst the thousands of students at their school.

However, I followed this with a word of encouragement that they wake up the next morning with a renewed sense of hunger to once again push themselves to excel and move forward; to meet the new challenges they’ll face with the same drive and persistence that got them here, ending with my hopes to see each of them again at next year’s awards banquet.

Judging from the comments I received from both the students and their parents, many of them took this message to heart, feeling valued not just for what they accomplished over the previous school year, but because someone was willing to encourage them to look ahead with the knowledge that they could do it again, if not achieve even better results.

And perhaps that’s the single greatest message leaders can impart to their employees through their feedback – a sense of belief and trust in their employees’ abilities to not just meet the expectations being put upon them, but to exceed them because they know what they’re capable of when given the support and encouragement they need to succeed.

In the end, leaders have to remember that the word feedback starts with the word “feed” which essentially refers to nourishing a need to help ourselves not only thrive but grow and evolve. And when it comes to understanding what needs our workforce has, there’s no better expert than our employees themselves.

By paying attention to what your employees tell you, you can provide them with the kind of feedback that will not only inform them of your expectations, but which will also foster within them a renewed sense of purpose in how their contributions can help their organization to achieve its shared goals.

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28 Comments » | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | November 8, 2011 by |

28 Comments on

Are You Following These 3 Rules For Giving Effective Feedback?

  1. On November 8th, 2011 at 11:38 AM Richard A Marti Jr said:

    Nice Tanveer. Good communication is about understanding. As you explained in the story about your review that you exited feeling disappointed and that your boss did not communicate objectives clearly, I was thinking: Yes, it is his job to communicate clearly AND it is our job to ask questions to pull out understanding. I think it is imperative in good communication to have an order/confirmation feedback loop..
    . "This is what I mean"
    .."Did you mean this"
    . " Yes, that is what I meant, or no… it is more like this"
    I think that it is pretty cool that you first recognized your relationship with the students… and then crafted your communication with them.
    That shows a level of care that fosters great communication.
    Thanks Tanveer

  2. On November 8th, 2011 at 12:29 PM Jon M said:

    Tanveer, Very insightful. The "feed" element is essential, and we need to ensure that we nourish our team more than once a year. Feedback should be given at the right, multiple times. It creates momentum and continous strength in the work done. Thanks! Jon

  3. On November 8th, 2011 at 12:46 PM Jim Matorin said:

    Once again I really enjoy how you tie your posts into a non-business, real world situation we can 1.) learn from; and 2.) we most probably experience during the course of our adventure. Consequently that is why I am a huge fan of your blog Tanveer. Two additional thoughts: 1.) Back in the day when I had people respondsibilites (now that I am a solo act I only have cardboard cut outs in my office) I used to provide my people with continual feedback so no one ever wandered or caught off guard when I did provide a formal annual review always on time. I really hated working for people that gave me my review after 15 months with the raise retroactive. 2.) I am always amused to your point #2 when I ask people are you in the receiving mood of some feedback that they cringe and think something bad is coming. I get a chuckle everytime.

  4. On November 8th, 2011 at 12:49 PM John said:

    I do agree that feedback should be taken positively and that each feedback thrown at our products and services should help us assess its quality and if we are able to meet the customer's expectations. This could also help us formulate strategies and methods to attain better results and advantage over our competitors.

  5. On November 9th, 2011 at 5:05 AM PC Speed said:

    Impressed Tanveer

    Most of the people don't take the feedback positively.

    Feedback is the cheapest, most powerful, yet, most under used management tool that we have at our disposal.


  6. On November 9th, 2011 at 10:31 AM Jeanie said:

    It is so sad that not all employers will read all these useful tips… Because everything that you mentioned above is true and I agree completely with every word. Only clever employers know about it and practice it

  7. On November 9th, 2011 at 12:57 PM 3 Rules For Giving Effective Feedback « Peel Leadership Centre said:

    […] From Tanveer Naseer: “As we slowly make our way through the remaining weeks of the year, many organizations are now shifting their focus to an exercise that is often met with disdain and apprehension …” […]

  8. On November 10th, 2011 at 5:42 AM Leaders & Followers: Grit your teeth…it’s that time of the year again (Let’s Make it Tanveer Naseer Style) « Lead.Learn.Live. said:

    […] I’ve been following Tanveer Naseer’s blog. It’s very good. … He’s widely read and published and he’s recognized for having one of the best management and leadership blogs. […]

  9. On November 11th, 2011 at 8:39 AM paardenrassen said:

    feedback can give employers more motivation. it is good way to avoid mistakes

  10. On November 11th, 2011 at 11:08 AM Are You Following These 3 Rules For Giving Effective Feedback? | TanveerNaseer.com | Dynamic School Leadership | Scoop.it said:

    […] Are You Following These 3 Rules For Giving Effective Feedback? | TanveerNaseer.com – As we slowly make our way through the remaining weeks of the year, many organizations are now shifting their focus to an exercise that is often met with… Source: http://www.tanveernaseer.com […]

  11. On November 11th, 2011 at 12:02 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Absolutely, Steve. It's important that feedback be actionable in providing both context for how one's efforts matter and direction for where you need to set your sights on. That's why shopping lists of what you're doing wrong is counter-productive because it rarely provides employees with these two important details. Thanks Steve for sharing your thoughts on this.

  12. On November 12th, 2011 at 2:05 AM caroline said:

    Taking feedback will make employees feel as if their opinions matter, boosting their productivity and it also helps to understand the current dynamics of the workplace

  13. On November 12th, 2011 at 4:28 PM Are You Following These 3 Rules For Giving Effective Feedback? | TanveerNaseer.com | 21st Century Pedagogy | Scoop.it said:

    […] Are You Following These 3 Rules For Giving Effective Feedback? | TanveerNaseer.com – As we slowly make our way through the remaining weeks of the year, many organizations are now shifting their focus to an exercise that is often met with… Source: http://www.tanveernaseer.com […]

  14. On November 14th, 2011 at 4:45 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    It's my pleasure, Katherin. I'm glad to hear that this piece had a positive impact on you.

  15. On November 14th, 2011 at 4:54 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Khleo,

    When giving feedback, it's important that we ask ourselves what we expect the recipient to do with what we're telling them. If, for example, we're simply pointing out things they've wrong, how can we expect them to feel anything but a failure? On the other hand, if we provide some insights and direction on how they can address it, we're not simply treating the conversation as an opportunity to express our displeasure with their efforts. Instead, our goal is to provide them with the guidance to do something about it by tapping into their unique strengths/talents to overcome this difficulty.

    Using this approach, we're not only ensuring that the issue is being addressed, but we're helping our employees become stronger participants in the process as well. Thanks, Khleo, for sharing your experiences with giving feedback to others.

  16. On November 14th, 2011 at 5:17 PM Are You Following These 3 Rules For Giving Effective Feedback? | TanveerNaseer.com | Leadership & Management | Scoop.it said:

    […] Are You Following These 3 Rules For Giving Effective Feedback? | TanveerNaseer.com – As we slowly make our way through the remaining weeks of the year, many organizations are now shifting their focus to an exercise that is often met … Source: http://www.tanveernaseer.com […]

  17. On December 21st, 2011 at 7:15 AM Here we go again… – Lead.Learn.Live. said:

    […] shift from the traditional “how can I fix your developmental areas” (code for weaknesses) to a focus on “how your strengths have added value to the organization” and how these strengths can be further leveraged. (Think Tanveer Naseer & Marcus Buckingham here.) […]

  18. On December 21st, 2011 at 7:22 AM David Kanigan said:

    Tanveer, thank you. This post resonated with me (again). You inspired my post today on the subject of performance reviews at http://wp.me/p1TJPv-A7. Dave

  19. On February 22nd, 2012 at 11:48 PM limumi01 said:

    It is almost like a former teacher of mine had read this article Tanveer. I struggled through certain segments of high school and the chemistry teacher paired me up with a tutor on his own dime. There was no way I was going to let him down and I worked my butt off to improve on my overall grades. Sacrifices were made as I had to let go of the sports aspect of school. As the grades were improving, the feedback was not the idle comments like "good job". They were indepth and when given, he was very present and direct. It was full of vigor and now reminds me of the time between the 11 and 12th round of a boxing match. It was that boosting. Someone took that interest and the encouragement that followed shaped who I am now. Feedback juiced with real enthusiasm is that powerful.

  20. On April 18th, 2013 at 5:03 AM In Defense of Wow: It's Okay to Be Impressed said:

    […] a post submitted for tomorrow’s LGL Frontine Festival, Tanveer Naseer,  explains “feedback should make you hungry to achieve […]

  21. On April 19th, 2013 at 6:56 AM Frontline Festival-April 2013 Feedback and Coaching Edition said:

    […] Tanveer Naseer  asks Are You Following These 3 Rules For Giving Feedback?  He also shares the how to use the recognition more strategically as feedback.  My favorite […]

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