Five Keys to Giving Effective Feedback

Five Keys to Giving Effective Feedback


The word “feedback” is shaded in ambivalence; at one level it is important to let others know how they are performing and at another level it can create tension around how to provide feedback in a way that produces positive change in the recipient’s performance.


The concept of  “giving feedback” is changing from the annual performance review to providing ongoing information to staff about their performance, both with regards to what they are doing well and what they need to work on. While the annual performance review can be viewed as an opportunity to provide comprehensive feedback on all aspects of a person’s performance, it is important to also provide the ongoing feedback. The main areas to focus on include:

  • What is this person doing well?
  • What does this person need to work on?


Here are 5 key things to consider when giving feedback:


  1. Create a place of trust
  • It is important to show respect for the person receiving the feedback by meeting with them in private.
  • Let them know from the outset that this is all about starting a conversation about how they are performing, both what they are doing well and also areas to focus on for improvement.
  • Keep it non-judgmental, keep the focus on behaviour.
  • Focus on using this feedback to inform areas for capacity building.
  • Encourage opportunities for the person to participate in ways to improve areas of concern. This is useful in building metacognitive skills in learning when to put in more effort, when to try something different and when to seek out others for support.


  1. Frame feedback in terms of goals
  • Using goals as the frame of reference gives meaning and direction to the feedback.
  • Prior to the meeting it is useful for the person receiving the feedback to have thought about their current performance in terms of progress made to achieving current goals.
  • Hattie and Timberley (2007) came up with three questions for the person receiving feedback to consider:
    • “Where am I going? “ (The goal)
    • “How am I going?” (Progress toward the goal - encourage self acknowledgement of their successes)
    • “Where to next?” (Actions I need to take to make further progress)
  • Relating the feedback to pre-established goals creates a focus and direction for the conversation that is based on previously agreed parameters.
  • It keeps the feedback in place of neutrality and empowers the person to accept the challenges of new goals.
  • Always start with what is going well and lead into what needs their attention.


  1. Ensure a shared understanding of the way to move forward
  • Go into the meeting being prepared not only to deliver the feedback but also to listen well to the person’s response to said feedback.
  • Check for understanding and also seek clarity so that you are both on the same page.
  • Once you have decided on a way to move forward and set new goals, it is important that the person receiving the feedback is then asked to share their understanding of their new goals. This is important to eliminate misunderstandings.


  1. Set timelines and measurement details
  • It is important that specific and timelines are set for the achievement of this new goal
  • Be clear about the behaviours that are being measured
  • Set up interim times to check on progress toward the goal and indicate that you are available to answer questions or offer support outside of these set times.


  1. Set aside time in your week or day to acknowledge staff
  • Remember feedback is more powerful when it is given on a background of acknowledgement.
  • Research has shown that employees show loyalty and commitment to a company when they feel appreciated and acknowledged.
  • Setting a time in your calendar to show genuine recognition and acknowledgement of employees will create that sense of trust.
  • Also providing corrective feedback, when appropriate, helps to keep people on the right track with their goals and can add to the feeling of being valued.


Published on 7/27/2015


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