The Importance of Feedback

Giving effective feedback doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #38

Praise in Public, Correction in Private

If you want to truly motivate someone, praise them in public. I’ll never forget the day Chris Brogan (who’s a well-known social media figure) praised me on Twitter. I felt inflated by his comment. I had a big smile on my face and as a bonus, I had thirty-five new followers within five minutes. It was like a gift--a gift of thoughtfulness--that didn’t cost him much but a few seconds of time.

However, I also remember the very first (and luckily only) public tweet I received that was negative. It was clearly intended to be destructive. I wasn’t even sure exactly what I had done to earn such a negative, hurtful reaction because the tweet wasn’t specific.  Eventually I received one or two private emails from other listeners that very clearly and gently described a mispronunciation error I’d made. I was only able to improve after I understood exactly what I needed to fix. As I mentioned in my subsequent episode about proper pronunciation, it stung a little, but ultimately I’m grateful and happy that a few listeners cared enough to share with me their stories of mispronunciation and helped me to not make that mistake again.

So, the rule is praise in public and provide corrective feedback in private and in person if possible. Sending an email should be a last resort --only if the other ways are impossible. One time in my career I needed to deliver some corrective feedback and it was so important to me that I flew to England so I could have a face-to-face conversation with my direct. Certainly, tweeting constructive feedback is out of the question—that is IF your goal is to motivate a change in behavior.

Four Steps to Giving Corrective Feedback

So what’s the process? First, when you’d like to give corrective feedback, be sure the person is interested in receiving your feedback. If he or she hasn’t specifically requested your feedback, then it’s good practice to ask. “Hey, would you like some feedback?” “Can I share something with you that I noticed?”

Next, you’ll want to describe the specific behaviors you noticed. So, again, behaviors are actions or reactions in a certain situation. For example, “I noticed that you don’t include a signature line with your contact information on your emails.” Or “I noticed that at the end of every sentence the pitch of your voice raises.” At this point, your goal is to simply reflect back the behavior as if you were a mirror.

The next step is to clearly state the impact of the observed behavior. “When you don’t include your contact information, it makes it difficult to find your phone number quickly.” Or “When you raise the pitch of your voice at the end of sentence, and you’re making a statement (NOT asking a question) it makes you appear uncertain or lacking in confidence.”

The final step is tricky. You might decide to just leave it there and let the person decide what to do on their own. If you pause long enough just after describing the impact, people will often volunteer a plan of corrective action on their own. If not, you may want to ask if they have any ideas to correct or improve the situation. As a manager, you may need to describe and ask for specific changes. For example, “Would you consider adding a signature line?” Or “Would you like to work with a coach to help you with your voice?”

So here’s how it might sound all together. “Hey, would you like some feedback? I noticed that you don’t include a signature line in your emails and it makes it difficult for me to find your telephone number quickly. Would you consider adding a signature line?”

If you sincerely focus on the fact that your goal with feedback is to motivate behavior, it should no longer feel uncomfortable. And if you provide feedback regularly, then it doesn’t need to take more than a few minutes.

Remember, next week we'll be discussing what to do if you find yourself on the receiving end of negative feedback, so stay tuned!

This is Lisa B. Marshall. Passionate about communication; your success is my business. Also, you can join weekly discussions in the Facebook discussion group or just visiting The Public Speaker Facebook Page.) As usual, I invite you to also join my networks on (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter).

If you have a question, send email to publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.

Businesswoman image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.