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‘Quality feedback is key to improvement

Myron Jobson

Giving constructive feedback is a good way of helping people understand their strengths and help in their development for the future, according to Jean Gamester, lieutenant governor of education and traing at Toastmasters.

When it comes to creating a culture where practical feedback is at the heart, an objective focus on the person receiving the pointers, good feedback delivery skills and an environment where it is safe to give and receive advice, are key, Ms Gamester said.

Expanding on the first point, she said feedback is about supporting someone to be better. It requires a person to put aside their interests, acknowledge differences in styles and focus on what will help the individual in question.

The second, delivering feedback, should be done in a constructive manner, which can be achieved by highlighting things that have gone well, exploring areas for improvement, and providing tips on how to be even more successful in the future, Ms Gamester said.

She added: “Of course, we need to be observant to make this happen – we need to be as attentive to what they do well as we are to the things they could do better, if not more so. We need to go beyond the weakness we see to share how they could do better in future.”

The transition from the positive points to the areas in need of improvement should be approached with care, according to Ms Gamester. She said: “The killer word is ‘but’ – use ‘and’ instead.

“Also, be aware of your body language and tone of voice – these make all the difference in ensuring how we appear to be matches the constructive words we are using.”

The third point is about creating a safe environment for constructive feedback. It needs to be an “expected part of life,” Ms Gamester said, whether that is achieved through mentoring, ‘buddying’ partnerships or done in teams.

She added: “I believe permission is a key part of creating a constructive feedback culture. People are most likely to want our help, to allow us in, if we have shown we can be trusted with the privilege.”

If the person giving feedback is heard being overly critical when talking about others, then people will not be convinced by attempts to provide constructive feedback, Ms Gamester said.

“If you are struggling to find positive things, spend more time noticing what they do well,” she added.

Quoting Jim Collins, business consultant and author, Ms Gamester said: “…the leaders of organisations that go from good to great are those who are not just driven to success, but have the humility to learn, to develop others and to see them succeed.

“Creating a fabulous culture where feedback is delivered safely, constructively and objectively, might be the thing that makes you, your team and your organisation go from good to great too.”

Adviser view

William Annison, employee benefits consultant at HWWA Consulting, based in Derbyshire, said: “Giving feedback stops employees from feeling undervalued. I think employees also read into things in a negative way due to a lack of communication. You have to be very careful when it comes to delivering feedback – it can’t be a personal attack. People should start with something positive then explore the areas in need of improvement.”