How to give meaningful feedback

The words ‘meaningful feedback’ can strike fear into the heart of any professional, but there’s no need to fret. With the right tools in place giving feedback can be constructive and motivational. In fact, good feedback can be the difference between a team thriving or flailing.

So what is the best way to give meaningful feedback? Here we give you five steps to delivering feedback that makes a difference.


  1. Location, location, location

Getting the setting right is essential when giving feedback. Delivering a piece of constrictive feedback in an open plan office, for example, would be unfair and counter productive.

If you want someone to take feedback on board then it is important to get the location right. This means picking a location that they’re going to feel comfortable in – in other words, you need to pick a location that is both private and neutral.



  1. Get the balance right

Human beings are naturally biased towards negative feedback. This means that it’s really important to get the balance between positive and constructive feedback right.

One way of doing this is to use a ‘constructive criticism sandwich’. This means giving a piece of negative or constructive feedback in-between two positive pieces of feedback. People like this model because sandwiching the difficult piece of feedback in this way makes it more comfortable to deliver.

However, delivering feedback in this way means that the person receiving feedback won’t hear the positive messages because they’ll be bracing themselves for the ‘criticism’ in the middle. Likewise, they might not hear the second piece of positive feedback because they are processing the constructive bit from the middle.

A better approach is to balance positive and constructive feedback. Positive feedback will stimulate the reward centre in the brain, leaving the recipient open to taking new direction. While constructive feedback can make people defensive, delivering it with clear direction on what can be done to improve makes the message easier to hear and more useful.



  1. Timing is everything

There is no need to wait for an annual performance review to give feedback. For feedback to be meaningful and useful it needs to be delivered in a timely way. If you need to give someone feedback on the work they’ve done on a project, for example, there is no point waiting until the project is over. Feedback needs to be delivered as quickly as possible following a piece of work so that the person receiving the feedback has an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.


  1. Detail matters

When providing feedback it is really important to be as specific as possible. Include detail and real life examples. On top of this, it’s really important to provide some direction. You could say, ‘you need to speak up more during meetings,’ but it would be more effective to say, ‘you have great ideas, it would be great to see you putting them forward more during meeting. Try and put forward at least one idea a week.’


  1. Be authentic

It’s crucial to be authentic when delivering feedback. If your tone and manner don’t match the content of the feedback, you could send a mixed message that confuses the recipient. When you’re giving positive feedback, let your tone and body language show that you appreciate their efforts. When you’re giving constructive feedback, a more concerned tone will show that you take the matter seriously.

Crucially, always try to avoid displaying negative emotions such as anger, sarcasm or disappointment, as the feedback recipient is likely to take this personally.