Giving feedback

I’m often asked by people how they can give someone else feedback. Whether it’s negative feedback that someone needs to improve, or positive feedback complementing someone on a positive action, I get asked this so often that I thought it was easier to post it.

So here it is. I’m no expert on feedback, and what’s below has worked for me. It might not work for you, and that’s ok.

Where to start

With all feedback, positive or negative, there are two ways that I usually use and recommend for giving feedback

1) Situation, Behaviour, Impact (SBI)

  • Describe the situation. For example: When we were in the planning meeting the other day
  • Describe the behaviour. For example: You were thoroughly prepared and were able to present your stories quickly and coherently
  • Describe the impact or affect: For example: This meant we could get consensus on your items and move along quickly. It helped to keep the meeting running smoothly

2) Action, Impact, Do (AID)

  • Describe the action the person took: In today’s planning meeting, your tickets weren’t in the correct state on the board
  • Describe the impact or affect that this action had: This meant that you had to spend time updating the tickets, which slowed the meeting down
  • Make a request for something they can do differently: Next time, please can you come to the meeting with your tickets up to date.

Things to avoid

1) Judgement

Try to state only the facts and remove judgement from your statements. For example, the feedback above could be reworded with judgement: “You weren’t prepared for today’s planning meeting. Next time, please come prepared and make sure your tickets are up to date.“ The judgement in this sentence is “you weren’t prepared” – you’d be making an assumption which may not be true. Stick to the facts only

2) Hyperbole

“Your work is always excellent” This might be nice to hear, but doesn’t contain any information for the person. Think about what they’ve done that make them seem “excellent”. Try to be specific, for example “your code is high quality, great work” or “You were so helpful when you facilitated that conversation and it really helped us to get consensus”

3) Taking too long

This is especially important for criticism or negative feedback. It should happen as soon as possible, but ideally privately.

4) Not taking ownership

Say “I”. “I noticed”, “I felt”, “I saw”. This means you’re taking ownership of the feedback and the person you’ve giving feedback to can have a meaningful conversation about it.

5) Being vague

Before you give feedback, spend some time prepping and understand exactly what it is you’re telling someone. If someone has given you feedback as a manager and you want to pass it on, make sure you are absolutely clear about what you’re hearing and what you’re going to say. Don’t make people guess what you’re saying, and don’t make them investigate to find out more.

Giving feedback