Giving feedback

When you want to give someone feedback, particularly something critical, it’s tempting to surround it with positive messages as a way of softening the blow. However this tactic can result in the person leaving the meeting unperturbed by the critical feedback, as all they heard was the positive stuff.

For instance:

  • I really like the work you did on X.
  • Please remember to get in on time each day.
  • You’re working really well with Y.

The person could easily leave the meeting thinking they are doing a great job and your real message has been missed.

That said, I think sharing positive messages, even if you need to be critical about something else, is really important. People need praise to stay motivated. So how do you ensure they get the real point?

It’s going to sound hilariously simple, but a great strategy I have started using is to start the meeting with a clear outline of the type of meeting you are having. Something like:

I called this meeting because I am not happy with the time you are getting into work each day…

The immediate impact of this can be quite jarring, but from that point onwards they are under no illusion about what is happening. They’ll sit up and pay attention.

Once you’ve made all the points you want to (and listened to their input) you’ll also be able to end on something more positive, safe in the knowledge that your most important message was heard loud and clear.

Daniel Bower

Product manager turned student. Currently researching algorithms, platforms, interoperability and kill zones at DDH. Read more about me.