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Strong Teams Give - and Get - Feedback

Give it. Get it. How feedback strengthens teams.

Feedback can be the ultimate love-hate relationship. We know we need it to learn and to grow BUT we want to be accepted (and maybe even revered a bit) for who we are today.

Seek feedback. Drive performance.   

Want honest, helpful feedback about your performance? Be brave and ask for it. It’s the only way to get better.

To get quality feedback, be intentional and specific, according to Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, authors of Thanks for the Feedback, which examines the receival of feedback according to both science and emotion. Tossing out a “any feedback?” is like calling out “how are you” as you quickly pass an acquaintance on the street. It’s a missed opportunity to connect, learn, and grow. When you’re ready to ask, try a specific lead to help the feedback giver to help you.

What’s the one thing you see me doing—or not doing—that’s getting in my way?

This style of questioning cuts down on the size of the ask— “the one thing” —and it also indicates you’re open to using the feedback— “getting in my way.” You’re looking for just one item that’s potentially minimizing or blocking your success. Ask well, and you will likely receive—and you’ll need to prepare for your response.

Develop a growth mindset—be open

How you’ll receive feedback, now that you’re asking for it, will depend on how you view it: threatening, helpful, useless, ill-informed, an opinion to consider. With the understanding that all feedback is not created equally, you can still prepare your mind to open to the possibility of growth.

To start, lose the simple labels which you’ve place on yourself: good at “X” and “bad at “Z.” When you think your skills, or your work, are an all-or-nothing affair, it complicates your ability to receive feedback. A belief that you have expert-level skills in “XYZ” will cause you to dismiss a suggestion of how “XYZ” overall performance could be boosted—or it will rock your very existence to the core at the thought that your expertise has a fault line.

Give feedback. Spark performance.

  1. Model learning, request coaching. A positive workplace culture starts at the top: set the tone by holding yourself accountable, asking for coaching and help from team members.
  2. Manage mindset and identity. Prepare your feedback thoughtfully: factor in long-term consequences for the receiver, as well as your own short-term discomfort.
  3. Remain aware of individual differences. Part of the challenge of feedback in organizations is differences in temperament and “wiring” —our sensitivity to feedback can affect both how we give and receive feedback.

Help your team to receive feedback

Flip the switch from fixed to growth mindset for the whole team. We all get better when we believe we can get better. If we cling to the idea that we’re the best, or we’re as good as it gets, we can’t grow through feedback—as individuals, or as a team.

Look for coaching opportunities (to give and to get). Just like working on your backhand serve with the tennis pro, coaching feedback is all about learning and growth. Offer feedback through coaching as a growth opportunity of a skill or piece of knowledge, without critique of personal traits.

Share concrete feedback through regular evaluation to support what’s working, and what isn’t. During evaluations, make a concerted effort to focus on assessment and consequence—don’t allow judgement to creep into the feedback. When you focus on the specifics, shortcomings or missteps can be addressed, without blame or undue upset.


3 Types of Feedback

  1. Appreciation seeks to recognize effort and provide thanks. Sharing this type of feedback builds relationships or seeks to maintain human connections. “Great job on the strategy session today. You got a great knack for getting everyone to share their opinions.”
  2. Coaching aims for learning, growth or change. It can be necessary to improve knowledge or skills, or to identify an interpersonal issue which requires repair. “Let’s take another look at this report structure. I’ve got a few ideas that might help you identify the key priority areas.”
  3. Evaluation provides assessment or a rating. Telling others where they stand in comparison to others, or to expectations can support subsequent consequences or making decisions. “The last campaign you led resulted in 25% more negative customer feedback than any other campaign this year.”


Get and give feedback like a pro. If you—or your whole team—would benefit from some support in both giving and receiving feedback, contact us! Smart Savvy Academy offers a full-day workshop on Feedback and its role in fueling a culture of growth. Participants will improve their ability to receive, give, and encourage feedback, to better develop people, clear obstacles, and improve performance and results.


Peter.jpgPeter Reek is the Founder and President of Smart, Savvy + Associates, who are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent in the Pacific North West. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.

Peter Reek

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