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Giving Effective Feedback

What is feedback?

I have lost count of how many times I have re-run this workshop theme to parties from different fields in the past 5 years. This time, during my short stay in Hong Kong, I have brought the importance of knowing HOW to give effective feedback to increase productivity & efficiency, build rapport & connection, unleash potential etc., to an International School, a Management Company and an Accounting Firm.

And every time I start with the question, "what is feedback?"

Sometimes the more often we use certain words, the more likely we don't actually know the meaning of them. The same case applies to the word "communication". Let me sidetrack for a bit and ask you, "what is communication?". When we can pause for a moment to understand more, I am sure our mind can be unwired and so are our corresponding behaviours.

As expected, out of the hundreds of participants in the 3 workshops, most of them can't really express what feedback is. Common responses were, "feedback is what I want to say about a particular person because of certain behaviours.", "feedback is something that corrects one's behaviours.", "feedback is how I feel about what a person has done wrong and the right ways to do it."

There are many definitions of feedback but the following is one that I find particularly helpful.

"Feedback is Information about past behaviour delivered in the present which may influence future behaviour."

With the above definition, how well do you give feedback? Feedback is just a piece of information. There "shouldn't" be any emotion involved. I still remember a common response from my executive coaching experience - "I give feedback to the team because they drive me nuts! I need to express my emotion!" So it's all about the speaker? not about the recipient? I am sure this is common among parents as well. How do we expect others to listen to us when the focus indeed is all about the speaker?

“I don’t need to be corrected to be motivated; nor I need to be criticized to be energized” ~ Susanna Wong

I wonder when we got the impression feedback is about correcting others. Probably since young, parents and teachers always correct us and so we have acquired this mechanism of focusing on "What's wrong with you?" "What's your problem?" Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! And they tend to spend A LOT of time talking about your "problems". When you have done something right, positive feedback is either short or doesn't even exist. Why? "Because doing things right is your responsibility!" A manager said in a workshop.

Let's pause for a moment, how many minutes a day do we give positive feedback? how many hours a day do we give corrective feedback?

In the workshops, I shared two models, one for positive feedback and the other for corrective feedback. Guess which model people are more interested in?

I remember years ago, I heard a speech saying, "we don't need a special talent to spot people doing things wrong because we are born to be imperfect." How true.

We all want to be and can be better but do we know the way to give effective feedback, first, to keep the "desirable" behaviours and second, to give constructive feedback in a way that people can accept and be better?

Communication is an Art. There are many ways we an express ourselves. Why choose a way that make others feel defeated?

Questions for you:

1. Do you want to receive positive feedback so that you know what you have done "right" so that you can keep doing it?

2. Do you want to receive feedback that truly grow your potential?


Think about some motivating feedback you have received. You will surely get some clues. If not, happy to share the two models with you. Contact us if you want to know how to give effective feedback in both written & spoken formats.

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