Mel Savage Executive Coaching
Leading a Team

This Is How You Give Constructive Feedback

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If you’re interested in making constructive feedback easy, and you’re #1 most effective tool for growing people, then stick with me because I’m going to give you 4 mindset shifts to make constructive feedback sessions the most gratifying part of your day.

The doctor said I was a very fit, fat person.

McDonald’s used to send me an annual physical. At this point in my life, I was in the gym 5x week, so I over-achieved on all the fitness stuff. However, I also love to eat, so I was 20 lbs over the high end of the BMI.

At the end of the 4-hour physical, the doctor looked at all my results and I could see confusion in his face. And then he just looked up at me and said “Well… the bottom line is you’re a very fit, fat person – you need to lose at least 20 lbs.”

I was taken aback by the way he offered the feedback. In that moment I was neither motivated to lose 20 lbs, nor to listen to anything else the doctor had to say.

This is an example of how NOT to give constructive feedback.

The problem isn’t that the feedback was direct.

The feedback wasn’t constructive because it was judgmental. It was one-sided. And it had no impact.

He didn’t ask me what my objectives were or if I had a POV on my health. He didn’t care what I thought. He was only interested in what he thought.

One of the most powerful skills of a leader is learning to offer constructive feedback that motivates growth.

 

‘Cos that’s what constructive feedback is, right? It inspires someone to construct themselves.

Now if you’re one of those drill sergeant leaders who likes to motivate people through fear… then this isn’t the post for you. In fact, I’m probably not the person you want to follow.

BUT… if you’re interested in making constructive feedback easy, and being your #1 most effective tool for growing people, then stick with me because I’m going to give you 4 mindset shifts to make constructive feedback sessions the most gratifying part of your day.

1: Constructive Feedback can be positive or negative.

We often use constructive feedback as a PC term for giving someone negative feedback. But if you agree with the definition that constructive feedback inspires someone to construct themselves, then the feedback can be either positive or negative.

The type of feedback doesn’t make it constructive or not. It’s really all about the style of the feedback.

 

I mean, you can give meaningless and uninspiring positive feedback as easily as you can give critical, confidence-sucking negative feedback. AND you can use both positive and negative feedback to help someone build themselves up to what they are trying to become.

For example…telling someone “Good job with the presentation today.” isn’t as constructive as having a conversation with them on why they think they did a good job with the presentation.

2: Constructive Feedback is collaborative.

When you call someone into your office to tell them what they did wrong, it’s impossible to have a collaborative conversation. You’ve already decided they’re wrong. You already have your opinions about it.

What if you went into feedback sessions with curiosity vs. opinions? Seeking to understand vs pre-determined judgment always creates a healthy opportunity for discussion.

Examples

  • That report was due yesterday, what happened? What do you think the implications are? How did you manage those implications? What worked, what didn’t, what will you do differently next time?
  • You looked visibly frustrated in the meeting, is that how you were feeling? What was causing the frustration? Is there another way to look at the situation? What would have served you the best? What would you do differently next time?

This is so much easier on them and you. It’s a conversation with a boss who cares what they think and wants to see them grow.

You learn a lot about a person’s mindset and motivation when you get curious. And by answering questions, your report gets smarter by finding their own answers.

3: Constructive Feedback is for them... not you.

You might say… well duh… ALL feedback is about THEM.

But is it, though?

When you position the feedback as “you did this, and it was wrong, and you need to stop doing it”… it’s really about what you need to make your life easier. The sooner they stop taking those “wrong” actions, the less you have to deal with it.

Or when you send two-sentence feedback in a text, it’s more about getting the feedback off your chest than it is about effectively collaborating on performance.

Part of a leader’s job is to help their people think.

So whether the feedback is positive or negative, remind yourself this isn’t about them “doing it right”. If that’s your motivation – it doesn’t matter what you say… it will come across confrontationally.

But if you tell yourself the reason you give constructive feedback is to help your people think through what went well and what they’d like to do better next time, then you naturally become compassionate and curious and the questions just flow.

So next time you want to collaborate on feedback, ask yourself if the way you’re doing is for your ease or their growth. It’s never both.

4: Constructive Feedback is never personal.

I’ve had bosses tell me “Don’t take it personally, but …” and then proceed to tell me that a few of my peers don’t trust me… or some other type of feedback that’s framed in a very personal way.

Just because a peer doesn’t trust you doesn’t make you untrustworthy. In fact, it may have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

As leaders, you’re sometimes having conversations about someone’s behaviour, work style, or thought process. And if you make that mean something is wrong with them, then you’re the one making it personal.

Remember, there’s a difference between doing something wrong and being wrong.

 

Someone can be highly valuable and make a bad call.

Someone can be reliable and forget to do something.

Someone can be good at building relationships and have someone not want to work with them.

I want to offer you to separate someone’s worth from their work. Make it about the process and not the person. When they fail at work, something is wrong with the process, not with them. When you focus on the process, it automatically depersonalizes the conversation.

The Bottom Line... Constructive feedback is less about giving feedback and more about having a collaborative performance discussion

Yes… it takes more time than a two-sentence text. But your job as a leader is to grow a team of critical thinkers who drive results. Constructive feedback is a tool you use to grow your people and your results faster.

HI, I'M MEL

I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.

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