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Sometimes It IS Better To Save Feedback For The Right Moment

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

The advice I’m about to give goes against all the latest wisdom and research about the value of instant feedback, 100% transparency, and the need to stream constant feedback to insatiable young employees. I admit that I am one of those very feedback researchers who shouts from the rooftop: “Honest Feedback Every Moment of Every Day!” But hear me out. There are times when timely feedback is better.

Save your feedback advice for projects or tasks that the feedback receiver is about to start now, rather than on what they screwed up on in the past!

In other words, pitch your feedback suggestions for future actions rather than what they have just completed, badly.

It is indeed possible that your advice simultaneously applies to tasks they complete daily. If you want them to improve their everyday way of talking to customers or documenting a computer program they’re working on today (as well as yesterday and tomorrow), then the traditional advice will work best. Say it now without another second’s delay.

But if you are wanting them to improve their presentation style for next month’s meeting or take a different approach with a customer they won’t talk to again for a while, save the feedback. Don’t make them stew in their feelings of failure or disapproval from you. The forward-looking feedback will be a powerful way to motivate and get them charged up to win on a task they are super focused on in their immediate future.

Here’s the formula for future-focused feedback:

  1. Future goal: State the future goal. For example: “So you’ll be leading the presentation for our top client again next week.”

  2. Success advice: I think it’s really important to anticipate the concerns of their skeptics from Finance in the very beginning of the presentation. It would even be good to ask for their input when you begin that portion of the presentation.”

  3. Past feedback: “When you spoke last week, I noticed those two frowning and whispering to one another, and we didn’t really address their concerns.”

  4. Optimism: “I’m excited about your opportunity next week, as they seemed positive about your proposal overall, and you are such an engaging presenter. Would you like to do a dry run tomorrow?”

Benefits of this approach

  1. Team members feel optimistic about their chances of success in the immediate future

  2. They know exactly what to do to receive future kudos from you

  3. You have bypassed the stress that comes from their feelings of disapproval and/or failure

  4. You have positive things to talk about and eagerly anticipate this kind of feedback conversation

Congratulations! It’s a Win-Win-Win. For them, for you, and for the great performance that will result!

“A concise and effective tool… It provides context, inspiration, and great actionable content.”

— Mark Holzbach, Creative and Tech Community Connector, Co-Founder, Zebra Imaging

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