Let’s first review the 3 cardinal rules on feedback:
- Be prepared with clear examples.
To avoid feedback on becoming impact-less compliments or complaints, you must bring examples where that person behaved the way you are mentioning.
For example, don’t just say: “you are very assertive” but mention the meeting/email/moment that made you perceive that person as very assertive, so that she can identify what she should keep “doing right”.
Or with negative feedback: “you are usually unstructured, for example in that email about tech resources you sent last week, there was no clarity on the objective of the email, nor what was the problem and what you needed from the people you sent the email to.”
If possible share how could that person have been more structured in that context.
- Identify facts from assumptions and use the word: -Perception-.
Whenever we are giving feedback (including in our personal relationships) most times half of the things we are mentioning as a fact are actually assumptions, you have to do the work to separate those two, so whenever you have an assumption you can approach it with the following formula:
That ___insert here the fact___ made me perceive/feel/think that you ___insert here assumption___ .
For example: “The fact that you didn’t respond to any of my emails and messages on this subject made me perceive that you are not committed to solve this issue”.
It works both for negative and positive feedback;
“The fact that you take the time to analyze and optimize our budget so carefully during that session made me perceive that you are very responsible with the way we spend the company’s money”
Half of the time, assumptions will be wrong, so by treating them as a perception preceded by the fact you will be understood better and it will open the conversation for the other person to share their perception. Which brings me to the 3rd rule:
- Always end the feedback with space for the other person to give their perspective.
Feedback sessions are not meant to be monologues even when it is a one way feedback.
So after stating the fact, with examples and explaining all assumptions you had on that fact, you have to open the conversation with a simple: “What do you think about it” or “What is your perspective on it” so the other part can feel recognized, thank you for the positive feedback, be able to give their side of the story with their perspective on the negative feedback, and most importantly actually propose & commit to a plan for improvement.
Now, on the process of thinking of these feedback points to give, you will notice that with each of the coworkers you have to give feedback to, one will come very easy to your mind: either the positive or the negative feedback.
We are all a bit biassed so it is always a big challenge to give 100% objective feedback. But the 3-2 rule is my way to get closer to objectivity.
Lets say you have a coworker that you are usually very frustrated to work with: so very naturally you can think of 3+ points of areas you think this person should work on in order to improve.
So you would have to:
1. First, limit it to only 3 (*only 3 because 3 is the magic bullet point number that makes things easy to remember and structure long term.)
2. Then, force yourself to think of at least 2 other positive feedback facts.
Everyone has something they must be doing right, and in order for people to listen to the areas of improvement you are pointing at, you need to open their ears and mind with constructive positive feedback that recognises the things they are actually doing right.
The reason it is at least 2 is because most times if you are biased negatively towards that person the first positive thing you can think of is not really very relevant but maybe the second one will be since you had to force yourself to think further for more than one positive feedback. The reason I don’t force it to 3 is because most times if they don’t come easy it ends up being “fluffy” non- constructive feedback points.
The same when it is the other way around, let’s say that you have to give feedback to your boss whom you really enjoy working with, respect and admire, so you can only think of positive feedback about her, you should start by writing 3 points of positive feedback and cap it to only 3, then you force yourself to find at least 2 points of areas of improvement, that way you are forced to think a bit more objectively in which ways she could improve.
This helps your coworkers, boss and direct reports to feel recognized and to have the opportunity to actually work on the areas they need to improve.
Remember than only positive feedback is useless, it takes away the whole point of feedback sessions which is find the areas we all need to work on in order to make our work, our team and our company thrive.
I hope this guide is helpful for anyone who is about to start 360 reviews at their company. I know how most people hates this process but it is impactful when it is done the right way.
Good luck on your 360 and let me know your thoughts and experiences around this! I love to read them. 🙏