Feedback is a gift. I’m sure you’ve heard this old saying many times before. You may even have said it yourself to a bemused listener. So, what sort of a gift is feedback?
I’ve been given lots of feedback, some great, some life changing, some average and some given, I suspect, because it made the giver feel better.
Let’s look a bit closer at the phrase and get specific. Feedback means ‘information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement’ A gift is ‘a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.’
I think giving is all in the timing. You wouldn’t give an Easter egg in January would you? I believe an experienced professional will choose the best moment to give the gift of feedback and deliver it with the intention of enhancing performance or attitude, rather than to feel superior or ‘in charge’.
I also think the recipient needs to be ready to receive. Feedback, especially in relation to interviews, can be both positive and negative. The care and thought used in the delivery of feedback will stay with the receiver for a long time (possibly a lifetime). It will certainly be interpreted, analysed and sometimes passed onto others who will also form an opinion on the person, organisation or event. And they may tell others. I’m sure you can remember times when you’ve received ‘good and bad’ feedback in your past – do you remember both?
Pick the right time when the receiver is ready. Ask them is this the best time for you? Do you want to take notes? Choose the right words and always be honest. The point of feedback is to give opportunity to learn from mistakes or lack of understanding. This is how we evolve and hone our skills, so that we’ll be more efficient and effective when given another opportunity or presented with a similar task or event.
So what was the last piece of feedback you received or gave? Ask yourself two questions:
- Was I clear and honest?
- After delivering / hearing the feedback was the relationship between the two parties left on a positive note, and how is that relationship now?
As we all know feedback should be constructive and honest. You can be honest with someone if they’ve made a mistake or under-performed but it’s good practice to tell them how to improve or change to avoid the same outcome next time. Negative feedback without guidance on improvement or change isn’t helpful at all, it’s just criticism.
Oh yes and never start or finish the conversation with ‘you know Feedback’s a gift don’t you’ – let the receiver be the judge of that.
The curious decision not to give feedback:
Now if you’re still with me you’ll hopefully be smiling now. I’m sure you’ve heard this lazy excuse somewhere along your career – I know I have. In one particular case, a candidate was taken through a process of four or five stages before the organisation decided not to hire that person. They finished their relationship with them by saying “we don’t give feedback, it’s not our policy” How do you think that person, who until that point was a potential new employee, is feeling now? Yes very let down, and justified in feeling negatively about the quality of that organisation.
Let me be clear this example is very rare in organisations. All of the clients I work for are excellent in giving clear detailed feedback and this makes recruiting for them a professional experience for all involved – these are the types of companies that have no problem attracting talented people and hiring the best the market has to offer.
So, feedback isn’t always given, but it is essential and can enhance or damage your brand depending on who delivers it, how they deliver it and when they deliver it.
As always this is just an opinion, feel free to comment or drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org
Connecting people in life sciences since 1994.