How to prepare for giving and receiving feedback

Why has the word ‘feedback’ received such a beating over the years? It has a negative stigma attached to it that is unwarranted; especially when we think about how feedback can be a positive way to help us achieve our mutual objectives and help take us from good to great.

What if we shifted the focus and looked at it from a different perspective?

After all, according to a famous quote that emerged from a Fortune 500 company, “Feedback, when given well, should not alienate the receiver of the feedback, but should motivate them to perform better!”

So why do we, as high performers who practise continuous improvement and strive to be better, shy away from both giving and receiving feedback? Why do we cringe inwardly each time we hear the word ‘feedback’ or 'performance reviews'?

Could it actually be in the way we deliver feedback? Or could it be a previous experience of where we received or provided feedback that didn’t go so well? How then can we get better at performance conversations?

Giving feedback using a feedback tool

You can’t build a strong structure without a strong foundation. Likewise, when giving feedback, it’s all in the setup, in the framing and how you set the context.

If you don’t have a strong frame based on facts, your feedback delivery falls apart. Why? Because it all becomes muddied, subjective and emotional.

Consider using a framework that can help you provide feedback in a very clear, objective and factual way so the other party fully understands what they need to do or keep doing to increase and improve their performance.

Here’s one we prepared earlier. Cue the PCARAR feedback tool

The PCARAR (Permission, Context, Action, Result, Alternative Action, Result) feedback model is a specific and objective framework for giving feedback:

  • Use the PCAR feedback tool for Confirming Feedback to support positive behaviour
  • Use the PCARAR feedback tool for Constructive Feedback to support behavioural change

Permission: Ask the other party for permission to have a feedback dialogue. 

Context: Describe the situation in which the behaviour occurred.

Action: Outline the specific behaviour you are giving feedback on.

Result: Outline what occurred as a result of the action.

Follow these steps, then seek a response from the person you are giving feedback to. What this does is it empowers the receiver to take responsibility and accountability for their behaviour or action. It allows them the time to digest and reflect on the feedback shared.

More importantly, you give them the time and respect to respond.

Then you continue by providing them with a recommended set of actions and the impact of the actions if carried out. 

Alternative Action: Outline an alternative action for a desired outcome.

Result: Results of the new or agreed action.

Be clear on intention

Giving feedback is one thing. Employing a framework is simply the start of it. The receiver needs to understand that your intention for feedback is not an attack; that the intention of giving the feedback is to improve their performance in a supportive environment.

So adopt these rules to engage your receiver: 

  • Give feedback when you know it needs to be given
  • Use silence effectively 
  • Assume nothing and seek a collaborative response 
  • Be present in the feedback conversation 
  • Be you in the conversation

Receiving feedback

What about what happens when we receive feedback? Or know when we’re about to receive feedback? What are the tools we can use and the techniques we can tap into to manage how we handle our emotions and respond in a clear, objective and rational manner?

We’re only human. But high performers are perhaps the hardest on themselves, more so than others. It gets challenging to receive constructive feedback which may otherwise be perceived as negative by a high performer, so they may prevent themselves from taking in such feedback. They may justify, explain, deny or become angry or hurt. However, we all need to remind ourselves that all feedback, even, and perhaps especially, constructive, is useful.

Some things to consider when receiving feedback:

Prepare yourself: If you know that you are going to receive feedback, for instance, in a performance review, client, customer or peer interaction, then self-assess your ideas and work beforehand. Consider preparing some specific questions that you want the other person to provide feedback on and that you yourself have identified where feedback may be provided.

Take notes: Where possible, make a record of what is said so that you can think through more thoughtfully the specifics of any constructive feedback you receive.

Adopt a curious nature: Ask for help in finding solutions to the difficulties. Seek assistance to obtain support.

Ask questions: Clarify that you have fully understood the specifics of the feedback and focus on filling the gaps on what needs to be improved.

Remember, feedback helps us to become more aware of what we do and how we do it. Receiving it gives us an opportunity to evolve and improve in order to become more effective.

Consider making these techniques a habit so that next time you need to give or receive feedback, the outcome is a positive one that is of mutual benefit to both parties involved.

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