The Gift of Feedback

Feedback can be powerful learning tool, not just for the person receiving it, but also for the one giving it.

Let’s look at an example using the sandwich method, where you start with a positive observation, then give constructive input, and end with another positive comment.  In this scenario a coworker has asked you for feedback on a presentation she just gave, and you’ve agreed to do so.

To start the feedback discussion you would tell her what you observed that went well.  For example, the material might have been nicely organized, and she had clearly stated goals.  Perhaps she was knowledgeable on the topic, easily handling questions from the audience.   That was all positive and you can share that at the start.

You might have also noticed that her slides were very dense and busy.  Because of this she turned frequently to look at them, which meant that her back was turned to the audience.  So, you could say, “You might consider reducing the amount of information on the slides the next time you use them so that you can stay facing the audience.  You are have a deep understanding of the topic, so the slides are just there to provide a framework for what you are speaking about.”

This is useful feedback; it is constructive, specific, and actionable.  It is not personal.

Finally, and very importantly, wrap up by saying something like, “It was a strong, well organized, and highly credible presentation and I hope to see you speak on the topic again soon.”

When you use this feedback method, the listener can hear you.  She stays open to what you are saying and may even ask you to elaborate on your suggestions for improvement.  You are giving her something of value: your honest, and constructive observations.  It’s a gift.

It also just makes it easier to tell someone how she could improve.  And there’s another thing: something that I personally find more compelling.  That is, when I use this method, I feel a connection with the other person.  We can look each other in the eye, we can be relaxed, and we can have an open, honest conversation.  For me, that’s a gift too.

The next time you have the opportunity to give feedback to someone,  you might try the sandwich method.  Who knows what gifts you might get to open.

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