Feedback — why don’t I like the word? It is a simple device that can help us grow, develop, do better, be better in all our various roles. 

Unfortunately feedback is more abused than used, more abusive than useful. I bet right now you are remembering a time or times, when you suffered from poorly delivered feedback.

The trouble with feedback is, us. Firstly, why do we make each other wait to hear it – at our weekly/monthly/yearly reviews, what’s wrong with right now? And please let us stop renaming it. Feedback is a useful term, you are feeding back to me information about how I am being in the world and in this particular case, how I am in the work space. And don’t give me that feedback in a ‘sandwich’ – nice comment – horrible comment – nice comment. What do you think I am going to remember? Clue, it is not the ‘bread’.

If we want to be useful to one another, why not see that as a daily activity, and behave accordingly. If I think I can usefully feedback to you on something work based, what’s wrong with doing that in the ‘here and now’, a place and time we are encouraged to mindfully inhabit. How about some feedback on the creativity shown today by a colleague who came up against a particular obstacle, ‘that was really helpful, what was your thinking behind that decision?’ Or, how about stopping the potential damaging behaviour of a team member who keeps missing detail, ‘Can you explain to us what the issue is with the detail, and we can get you support with that.’ 

There is an exercise you have probably heard of or taken part in on a team building day. The idea behind it is to learn how to give effective feedback. 

In pairs, one of you is blindfolded and must throw a rolled up piece of paper on to a target on the floor behind you. After the first throw, your partner gives only negative feedback, such as ‘Missed it’, ‘Quite far away from it’, ‘Your throwing action isn’t good’, ‘You’re not good at this’. None of this feedback is of any use to the thrower, they have learned nothing about how they might complete the task successfully. 

After the second throw, the partner can only give positive feedback, such as ‘Great throw’, ‘You will definitely get it this time’ ‘You were so close’, ‘I love your throwing action!’ Again this is entirely useless feedback, unless you are a sucker for unnecessary flattery. 

After the third throw the feedback can only be useful, ‘Move a little more to the left’, ‘Throw it higher’, ‘Your throwing action means you always land about 5 inches to the right, so…’ You understand.

Don’t be mindlessly positive and expect people to develop, don’t be thoughtlessly negative and expect people to understand what they need to do differently. Be useful, and enjoy the fruits of your thoughtful feedback. If you want others to be better and do better, start the ball rolling by being better and doing better with your feedback. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Happy to hear useful feedback.