Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback

By Nicole Loux, CPA

It is that time of year again at our firm for annual performance reviews. With that in mind I thought it would be a great time to think about how to give and receive constructive feedback. When given properly constructive feedback can be a useful tool to help you improve on your areas of opportunity.

Here are six helpful tips on how to provide constructive feedback:

1. Use the feedback sandwich method.
With this method, the feedback is broken down into three segments: Positive, Improvement and Positive. In the first segment, you provide positive feedback by letting them know something they have done well. In the second segment, you provide the constructive feedback, area of opportunity for them to work on. In the last segment, you reiterate the positive and the positive results they can expect if they act upon the construction feedback provided.

2. Focus on the situation, not the person.
Purpose is to detach the situation from the person to provide constructive feedback without it coming across as a personal attack.

3. Be specific with your feedback.
Constructive feedback needs to be specific. The more specific the feedback is the more actionable it will be. This will allow the individual receiving the feedback to know exactly what they need to improve. This will allow them to focus on making improvements in that area.

4. Comment on things which can be actioned upon.
Focus your constructive feedback on comments that can help the individual improve. If the comments are not actionable, the individual will not be able to make improvements as the area of opportunity is not clear.

5. Give recommendations on how to improve.
Provide the individual with recommendations on how they can improve. Your recommendations should be specific and you should explain why you are providing this recommendation.

6. Do not make assumptions.
When providing constructive feedback, do not assume anything and focus on the facts that are known.

Here is a six-step process that you can use when receiving constructive feedback:

1. Stop your first reaction.
Remind yourself to stay calm and listen to the feedback you are being provided.

2. Remember the benefit of getting feedback.
Take a few seconds to remind yourself of the benefits of receiving constructive feedback, which is to improve your skills, work product and/or your relationships to help you meet the expectations that others have of you.

3. Listen for understanding.
Make sure to listen closely and allow the individual to complete their thoughts without interruptions. When they are done, repeat back what you heard to make sure you understand the feedback that was provided.

4. Say thank you.
Express appreciation and thank them for providing the constructive feedback. Expressing appreciation does not mean you are agreeing to the assessment, however, it shows that you appreciate the fact that they took the time to evaluate your performance and provide the feedback.

5. Ask questions to deconstruct the feedback.
This the step where you start to process the constructive feedback and start to get more clarity on the point and share your perspective on the feedback. You want to avoid engaging in a debate, instead ask questions to get to bottom of the actual issue being discussed and possible solutions for addressing them.

6. Request time to follow up.
At this point you may want to schedule a follow-up meeting. This will provide you with time to further process the feedback given and to ask additional questions and to establish a plan for the next steps.

Constructive feedback is not easy to give or receive, but if often the only way we learn where improvements can be made. We need to remind ourselves that if we become defensive we run the risk of missing out on the important insight. Use the above tips to help you to provide and receive constructive feedback and make the experience a positive one.

Nicole Loux, CPA | Manager