Currently viewing Entrepreneur bites - Ready-made 5 min lessons - The do's and don'ts of giving feedback

Entrepreneur bites - Ready-made 5 min lessons - The do's and don'ts of giving feedback

It can still be a sensitive issue: giving feedback. Not everyone knows how to give (or receive) good feedback. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that it is extremely important to speak up and not to pot things up. Admittedly, I do that too from time to time... But if I haven't had my say, I end up lashing out at someone who doesn't deserve it. That's not fair, of course, so this is also a reminder to myself: give feedback quickly, so that it is clear what you think about something and why.

In the Netherlands, we are quite direct in our communication, so we know what we can expect from each other. This can sometimes come across as blunt to other nationalities, where, for example, hierarchy is more important than with us. If you have to deal with other cultures, you should perhaps be more cautious sometimes. Yet I generally notice that being open and honest, and at the same time behaving respectfully, works. This prevents things from escalating. The sandwich method that you learn at school (starting with something positive, followed by something negative and ending with something positive again) is, as far as I'm concerned, a thing of the past.

Making or keeping someone from making mistakes

You don't help someone to move forward by giving them an emotional beating, but neither do you help them by sitting back and watching them do something wrong. I think it is good to let people make their own mistakes, up to a point. Let employees make their own mistakes and solve them, unless you notice that it's going to be an insurmountable mistake after which there is no way back. Then feel free to intervene and explain why. For example, give feedback on how unfriendly a team member is to her colleagues, or express your displeasure when you ask her to do something and you don't actually like the result. Communication is key!

Keep in mind that the higher you are in the company, the more weight your criticism carries. You might have to be a bit more careful when it comes to feedback. As the boss, I have, for example, been so strict with an employee that it made him cry. Even though he did his best and meant well... Not to be repeated.

How do you give good feedback?

Once you have decided that you are going to give feedback on a particular case, the question arises: how do you go about it? What I usually start with is asking questions. I do this 1) to find out if I have understood the situation correctly and 2) to get the recipient to understand what I am referring to. Sometimes that person has simply overlooked something. By asking questions, you help them to come to their own understanding.

At other times, I point out the 'problem' to someone directly - one-on-one, or even in a group setting. It is then all the more important how feedback is packaged. Try not to exaggerate, for example. The comment I often get myself is that I exaggerate a lot. If something is a bit rubbish, then I call it 'all rubbish'. If I make such a remark to people who don't know me very well, my partner will tell me not to exaggerate. He gives me the chance to pick myself up without getting on everyone's nerves. Such feedback keeps me in place.

Know your place!

I think it is important to give feedback to keep others in their place. Sometimes someone's big ego undermines the team spirit. If an employee is structurally stealing the show, then I can let him know publicly that he is not the whole world. If a beautiful achievement has been achieved by the whole team and one person wants to take the credit, it is enough to say during a group session: "I understand that so-and-so also made a fantastic contribution to this". We are working together towards something beautiful and we need each other for that. And the right feedback helps achieve even better results.