How to Give Feedback That Helps Someone Improve

Evaluating Requires Effort, But It’s an Opportunity to Help Them Succeed 

By Harvard Business Review
January 11, 2018

Like any skill, offering strategic developmental feedback requires that leaders pay attention to and do many things effectively and simultaneously.

Giving feedback that is truly useful requires more care and attention than is typically invested. But the opportunity to help others develop is worth the effort.

How do you give feedback that helps someone improve? This strategic developmental feedback requires careful thought and insightful construction.

Useful feedback should be:

Big-picture focused: The most useful feedback answers the question, “For this leader to be maximally effective, what should he do more and less of?”

Organizationally aligned: Strategic developmental feedback should be based on a shared understanding of what the organization values.

Behavioral and specific: Vague labels like “inspiring” or “lacking executive presence” are of little use without more clarity.

Factual, not interpretive: Too often feedback is described with adjectives that only interpret a leader’s behavior: She is self-centered. He lacks confidence. Even if you believe a leader’s behavior stems from lack of confidence, your interpretation might not be accurate.

Linked to impact: Telling a leader she is a clear and concise communicator might feel good, but it won’t yield additional results. Saying her clear communication has motivated her colleagues and helped them better understand the company’s strategy will help prioritize this behavior.

Prioritized: Adults can focus and work on only a few concepts at a time. There is no way a person can effectively address too many requested behavioral changes at once.

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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