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Give One Small Bite of Feedback At A Time (For Easy Digestion)

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

What can the other person change easily to make a huge difference? Consider what would be quickest for them to learn or improve upon and what requires more time, education, or practice. If you’re stumped on how to prioritize potential feedback topics for someone on your team, sort them out into 4 categories.

Draw a large square on paper and divide it into four parts as shown below. After brainstorming some areas the person needs to improve, record them in the appropriate box:

As you choosing feedback topics for your initial feedback conversations, pick a few skills or capabilities from the upper right corner, and identify no more than one area in the top left box.

Proper bite size Feedback is ideal if it is focused on understandable and doable bites. In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink draws on research into optimal flow states to identify the conditions in which people achieve great things in the easiest manner. A key condition he describes is making “Goldilocks-sized” goals: not too hard, not too easy, just right. When choosing your feedback bites, make sure not to overwhelm your employee with a huge, unreachable learning goal. But make sure it’s something big enough to make a real difference in their work and make them feel proud.

Notice how easy & successfully your conversations are going Although it may have felt hokey at first, reflect on how positive visioning guided you to see the highest priorities for feedback to each person. Notice how some behaviors you’ve observed employees doing just didn’t come up as high priority and other capabilities can be phased in over time. That’s OK and normal. In fact, it’s a good thing: Your actual feedback conversations will be easier than you thought. You won’t need to nitpick in areas that don’t really drive results for the team, and you can save some of the longer-term improvements—e.g., “get an engineering degree”—until later. You are now being more strategic about how you will give feedback and coach people.

A super-positive bonus: Your mood is better! Notice something else. You are very likely to be in a better mood than you’ve ever been in when previously planning feedback conversations. By thinking positively and in the future (vs. starting negatively and in the past), you are actively rewiring your brain to think of feedback as good for employees and good for you. You are associating feedback with guiding and helping people and—dare we say?—work-place happiness.

The Feedback Imperative book

Read The Feedback Imperative for more information on how to give great feedback!

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