Trainers Guide : Rules For Giving Feedback

The rules for giving feedback are as follows.

1. Timing

Feedback is at its most effective when the events being described are still fresh in the minds of both the giver and the receiver of feedback. Ideally the recipient should be aware that they will be getting feedback and there should be sufficient time to provide the feedback in an unhurried  manner.

2. Establish a ‘safe’ environment

Although most descriptions of the feedback process concentrate on what is said, the environment in which the discussion takes place can have a considerable impact on the way in which the feedback is received. The environment should be one where both parties can communicate in an open, constructive and positive manner without concerns about confidentiality.

3. Be specific

The more specific the feedback, the more useful it is. The trainer should, ideally, be able to show clearly where behaviour did or did not happen, perhaps by using direct quotes or an audio-visual recording. Being specific also means being clear in what you say and avoiding generalizations such as ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘tended to’. Similarly, using phrases such as ‘I thought you gave an excellent presentation’ can be very uplifting but doesn’t establish what specifically it was that led to this praise.

As a result, it becomes harder to replicate this high standard. Amore helpful phrase would be ‘When you made your presentation you established clear objectives, structured it well and spoke with enthusiasm.’

4. Be descriptive not evaluative

It is almost impossible for feedback to be completely objective, but it is important that the feedback remains descriptive and avoids being judgmental. ‘Descriptive’ means reporting what occurred, while ‘judgmental’ means evaluating behaviour in terms of ‘right or wrong’ or ‘good or bad’. A judgement is made on the basis of an individual’s personal frame of reference or values.

5. Behavioural not personal

The requirement that feedback is non-judgmental does not mean that you cannot give an opinion but rather that when a personal opinion is expressed it is done in a way that is appropriate. This means that any viewpoint should be about behaviour (what a person does) not personal (what a person is). Focusing on behavioural aspects indicates that the observation arises out of the circumstances of the situation and therefore can be changed. Agood tip to prevent feedback being personal is to ensure that comments avoid adjectives (which describe personal characteristics) and focus on adverbs (which relate instead to actions).

6. Keep it actionable

The areas commented on should be ones that are capable of being improved upon. There is little merit in giving feedback on things that cannot be changed. For example, if a speaker stutters they are likely to be all too well aware of it already. There is no sense in making the stutterer even more selfconscious by pointing out that they should seek to avoid stuttering in the future. If, on the other hand, a speaker is speaking fast because of nerves, it can be helpful to explain that nervousness can have this effect and that there are a variety of breathing and stress management techniques available.

7. Provide ‘sufficient’ feedback

Developing new skills and approaches can be a difficult process. This means that any feedback provided should recognize this and reflect the degree of effort and anxiety generated by the circumstances.

If too little time is taken, the feedback might be viewed as ‘perfunctory and dismissive’. If too much time is spent on providing feedback, the recipient might view this as a negative indicator of how little they know and how much more they need to develop.

Ideally each person receiving feedback should be allocated roughly the same amount of time. In any event it is best to focus the feedback on a limited number of areas. If there are too many feedback points the impact can be lost and the process devalued by trivial or petty points. Instead, look at it from the recipient’s viewpoint and consider which three or four aspects can make the most difference with the least resistance.

8. Keep it balanced

Receiving feedback can be an uncomfortable and sometimes anxietyinducing experience. The givers of the feedback should minimize the discomfort by ensuring that there is a balance between the things that need improving and the things the recipient does well. If the feedback is all critical, the recipient will become overwhelmed and this will lead to resistance and rejection of the feedback. Equally, if the feedback points are all positive the recipient may believe that they are not being told the truth and feel patronized.

Source : The group trainers handbook : designing and delivering training for groups / author,

David Leigh.–3rd ed.

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