Effective Feedback: When & How to Offer It

Feedback – when to give it and how to do it effectively is a hard balance to get right. Some people find it hard to receive, and some people find it hard to give. In my mind, all feedback is valuable, as long as you keep in mind 3 things:

#1 – Is it respectful?

#2 – Is it constructive, and therefore understandable and actionable?

#3 – Outside of a Scrum Retrospective, are you remembering, praise in public and criticize in private.

At SSW we have a Retrospective culture, and I want everyone to give and receive feedback all the time. It’s a big part of the Scrum process, and I’ve found it to be a great way to consistently improve everything we’re doing.

In the video below, Matt and Uly talk about the Retrospective and how it is a forum that invites feedback. Everyone participating in the Retro knows in advance that they will give and receive feedback, so they’re prepared. But what about feedback given outside of this Retrospective bubble, the so called “unsolicited feedback”?

Video: How and when to offer unsolicited feedback | Matt Goldman & Ulysses Maclaren | SSW Rules | https://youtu.be/dLgsQvvYqSQ?si=nOJq-wjUDK1uWgYU

Unsolicited feedback is when the feedback was not asked for, or when the recipient was not prepared to receive it. So, how do we approach this kind of feedback effectively?

Let’s dive in to explore my tips for giving feedback and why it’s important.

Why Offer Unsolicited Feedback?

There are many reasons to offer feedback in the workplace, but here are some of the most important ones:

  1. Communication – Fostering a healthy environment of open and meaningful conversations.
  2. Personal Growth – Giving people insights into their strengths and weaknesses can help them become better at their job and give them constructive things to work on.
  3. Motivation – A feedback culture can increase employee engagement, commitment, and job satisfaction.

Tips for Effective Feedback

  1. Timing – Consider whether it’s the right time to offer feedback. For example, if the feedback is related to a crisis still unfolding, that team member is likely too stressed to receive the feedback and increases the chances it will be received poorly. The best time to deliver feedback is during the Retrospective when the crisis is over. That’s the time to constructively evaluate what went wrong without being colored by emotion.
  2. Listen – Allow the employee to respond and engage in a constructive conversation.
  3. Be Problem Focused and Specific – Address the issue directly and explain why it’s a problem. Specific feedback is more actionable.
  4. Public vs Private If the feedback is sensitive, make sure that person feels safe to receive it by delivering the feedback privately. E.g. something they might find embarrassing, is better delivered in private.
  5. Start with Praise – Start with the positives, then move on to the negatives.
  6. Be Sincere – Your voice matters. Match your tone to the context of the feedback as feedback is often not easy to receive so it’s important to be empathetic.

If you would like to know more, we have a Rule that can help: Communication – Do you know how (and when) to offer unsolicited feedback?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this; what do you think of my approach? Is all feedback good feedback? Let me know in the comments!