The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback
Communication Leadership

The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback

Feedback can be the key to not only developing your team but also yourself. However, as we all know, giving and receiving feedback can sometimes be extremely difficult.

As this is arguably one of the most important leadership skills, we collected ideas and insights from our speakers to help you master the art of giving and receiving feedback.

#1 Know the Three Types of Feedback

“Feedback is your relationship with the world and the world’s relationship with you.” – Sheila Heen

Harvard Professor Sheila Heen reminds us that feedback goes beyond the formal performance review as it includes all informal feedback—spoken, unspoken, direct, and indirect. Feedback consists of all the signals you receive from the people around you.

The difficulty with feedback according to Sheila is that we simultaneously have the desire to learn and grow but also the need to feel loved and respected just as we are. Therefore, to give effective feedback, you should aim at finding the right balance between the three types of feedback:

  • Appreciation: Knowing that you are valued and recognized.
  • Coaching: Anything that helps you improve—“the engine for learning.”
  • Evaluation: Rating your performance against a set of expectations.

#2: Give Feedback That Is Actionable, Frequent, and Informal

“The most effective feedback, positive or negative, is actionable.” – Daniel Pink

According to the bestselling author and speaker, Daniel Pink, effective feedback is specific and actionable. In order for a person to develop their work or behavior, the feedback they receive needs to guide them towards that action of change.

Also, Daniel emphasized that feedback works better when it’s frequent and informal, even though “most feedback systems in organizations are infrequent and formal”. According to Daniel, it should be more like a continuous discussion, especially in the context of knowledge work that is more creative and less routine-like.

#3: Encourage Candor by Avoiding Anonymous Feedback

“Most companies start by doing anonymous 360° feedback and I actually think that’s in contradiction with candor.” – Erin Meyer

Erin Meyer, the INSEAD Professor and bestselling author, took a closer look at the Netflix culture where candor was one of the keys to its success. The approach of honest and candid feedback can be difficult for leaders to adopt and for employees to practice. But as a reward, you can foster a sense of co-accountability and increase performance organization-wide.

What Erin underlines is that in order to give candid feedback, you need to give it openly. If you try to encourage candor by putting in place anonymous feedback methods, it will not work. “You should start by saying that we all have the courage to tell one another what we believe they could do better to be successful.”

#4 Share the Worst Feedback You Received

“The best place to start is getting your employees to give you [the leader] more feedback.” – Erin Meyer

Erin Meyer highlights that usually when organizations start implementing a culture of candor, they begin by giving their employees more feedback and by maybe giving systems for their employees to give one another more feedback. However, the best place to start is getting employees to give feedback to the leadership.

So, what Erin suggests you do is to, first of all, ask for honest and candid feedback from your team. Then when someone gives you critical feedback, share it across the organization and openly appreciate it. This sends a message that people are not only encouraged to give open feedback but that they are actually also praised for doing so. “If leadership starts soliciting feedback and celebrating it, then the rest of it becomes a lot easier.”

#5 Understand Your Triggered Reactions

“Hold your triggered reaction and, instead, before you decide if you agree or disagree, work to understand it.” – Sheila Heen

Sheila Heen explains that the difficulty in receiving feedback is that we usually look for what’s wrong with it so that we have a reason to forget it and move on. “There will always be something wrong with the feedback you get. It could be 90 percent wrong, but that last 10 percent is something you should start thinking about – that may be the thing that could make you grow to the next level.”

According to Sheila, by understanding these three triggered reactions we can get better at receiving feedback:

  • Truth Triggers: Challenge yourself to understand what the person means and to see yourself from a new perspective.
  • Relationship Triggers: Challenge yourself to separate the who from the what.
  • Identity Triggers: Understand your feedback sensitivity, or how intensely feedback affects your mood and your actions.


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