How to give and receive feedback

By on March 2, 2015

Many people fear both giving and getting feedback – so they don’t make the most of their own and others’ careers.

Failure to provide feedback is cruelty, asserted Cilla Snowball, the group chairman of AMV BBDO and one of the most powerful women in advertising, at MT’s recent Inspiring Women event. Feedback is crucial for development. Handled right it can be a powerful motivator, yet many managers fear feedback – both giving and receiving it – so they fail to make the most of their own careers and those of the people they are supposed to be leading. Here are some ways you can make sure you benefit from feedback opportunities.


Just do it

Don’t skip reviews or wait six months to give individuals an indication how they could improve their performance.

Ask and listen

Chances are people have a good idea of where they could improve. What’s gone well or hasn’t ? What would they do differently next time? By listening to their answers you’ll understand their development needs.

Be relevant – and specific

Whether you are praising or covering areas needing work, give examples, not generalities. Don’t waste time on subjective comments that don’t move the game on.

Praise first

Criticism prompts defensiveness and precludes collaborative engagement, so start with positive comments, building on strengths not weaknesses.

Be future-focused

Your role is to encourage growth and development, so set goals that are stretching but achievable.


Priorities, actions and any support needed. Set a date to review progress and stick to it. Praise effort and achievement and set the next development goals together.


Just get it

Get review dates into your boss’s diary and, between formal appraisals, ask for feedback from relevant people.

Ask and listen

Make sure you’re clear about what’s being said, and ask for examples of where you’ve underperformed and suggestions for ways to do better. Don’t focus on criticism, but understand where you are seen to add value.

Be open to data

Feedback often isn’t the truth, but may reflect perceptions. Because perception is to some extent reality, if you don’t like what you’re hearing it’s time to change how you are perceived.

Manage your emotions

It’s okay to voice disappointment, surprise or pleasure at what’s said, but anger and tears won’t convey that you are an adult who is interested in career advancement.

Be future-focused

You are being given useful clues on how to manage yourself in this or any other job.

Understand expectations

How will you both know you’ve made progress? If you feel your goals aren’t feasible, negotiate more achievable ones.

And finally, whether you are giving or receiving, review your own performance in this round of feedback and work out what would make it better next time.

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