One of the best tools we can have in our toolkit, and a tool that most businesses really need a lot more of, is actually centred around being able to give and receive feedback. Being honest, we are generally pretty bad at it.  A recent Gallup survey found that only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they get actually improves their work!

The problem is, most feedback being given doesn’t work for the way our brains process information. We either give soft ambiguous feedback, which is indirect. To the point that we don’t even realise we are getting feedback. Or, the feedback is too direct, tipping the other person into the land of being defensive.

Our brains are scanning at all times for any kind of threat, so we retreat away from what is perceived as a threat. This often breaks rapport with the feedback giver on the back foot trying to back peddle. The outcome is they can become nervous with the feedback process.

This is the main reason why people don’t like giving feedback. Yet, feedback is the most amazing thing when given, or received, in the right way. I’d like to share with you a four-part formula that you can use to give any message well, even if it is a piece of difficult feedback. This is all about giving REAL feedback:

Are you ready?

  • The first part of the formula is to gain their buy in. To check if they are READY to receive the feedback. It’s about breaking the current pattern that they are in and gaining their attention. Then it is about them acknowledging that feedback is actually coming. Getting them to say yes means that they get themselves ready, and they have also bought in to the feedback and the process. They are ready to hear what will be said.
  • The second part of the feedback formula is EXAMPLE what it is you are actually talking about. Here you should name specifically what you saw or heard and cut out any words that aren’t objective. If your message is too woolly or uses buzz words, then your message is lost. They are not tangible enough for people to use. For example, if you tell someone they need to be more reliable they may go into a defensive mode because they don’t have all of the example to understand. However, if you say to someone ‘I asked you for the piece of work by 10am and I still don’t have it. You are being more specific; you are giving an example of what has happened. You need to be clear about what you want the individual to increase of diminish moving forward.
  • Part three of the feedback formula is about the AFFECT. Here you describe exactly how the situation impacted you. So, for example I might say because I didn’t get your piece of work in time, I couldn’t carry on with the work I needed to complete. Or, when giving praise, I really liked how you completed your report it helped me grasp the concepts quicker. Your brain is looking for logic and to understand what it can do with the feedback. This really helps an individual understand why they are getting the feedback.
  • The fourth part of the feedback formula is to LEARN from the feedback. Great feedback givers do this in the form of a question. They ask something like this is what I’m thinking we should do but what are your thoughts? This creates commitment rather than just compliance it makes the conversation no longer be a monologue but rather becomes jointly owned.

So that’s the feedback formula REAL: Ready, Example, Affect and Learn. There is one last thing that I have observed with great feedback givers. Those that give feedback really well, often go out and ask for feedback. The more you ask for feedback the better you become at giving feedback and it also become much more comfortable and natural. Using the feedback formula and being great at receiving feedback helps to change your view of those challenging feedback situations.

So, like all great feedback givers, I would love to hear your feedback on this formula. What do you think? What do you need to be able to give, and receive, really effective REAL feedback?