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How To Deliver Better Feedback

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Rypple is a web-based social performance management platform that helps companies improve performance through social goals, continuous feedback and meaningful recognition. I recently spoke with Rypple’s Nick Stein to learn more about the company and get his tips for giving – and getting – effective feedback. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

Scott: Is it fair to say a quick description of Rypple would be Facebook for feedback?

Nick: I think that feedback is certainly a very important part of it. But I’d say that the feedback should be focused around aligning people within the organization so that they feel empowered and that people who lead your organization feel confident that everybody is moving in the same direction. So it’s feedback, but it’s feedback that leads directly to business results.

When it comes to feedback, how much is enough?

When most of us think traditionally of feedback within an organization, we think of the performance review, which a lot of companies still use and they do them once a year. And they’re backward-looking and have really morphed into this thing that’s much more about compliance than it is about performance.

When we look at feedback, we hear from our customers and tons of research that’s been done out there that employees are craving feedback, and as much of it as they can get. And I think that’s particularly true for the Millennials, who really have grown up around the idea of getting constant feedback that they can then use to get better at what they do.

What are your top tips for making the feedback useful? For somebody who wants to be really effective in providing feedback, what are two or three things they should always keep in mind?

It’s important to keep the feedback as specific as possible and then deliver it as frankly as possible. We really believe that recognition or positive feedback should be given publicly because it has kind of an amplifying effect. But when you’re giving constructive feedback, you should give it in private, one-to-one.

When you connect with the people that you work with on a frequent basis — and give them feedback frequently — if you do have something negative or constructive to pass along, it’s coming in a context that this is a person you’ve now worked with and communicated with in an ongoing way. You’re not suddenly showing up and surprising them with some piece of feedback that they had no idea that they were going to get.

Let’s say I’m the person that’s receiving feedback. Any ideas for how to make the most of the feedback I get, and how to stay engaged in the feedback conversation when it happens?

Be proactive. Don’t just sit back and wait for the feedback to come. If you want feedback about yourself and how you’re doing, go out and ask for it. Then make it part of a conversation, so that it becomes a basis for an ongoing dialogue with you and your manager, or you and your employee. Use it as a basis to check in and see how that person’s doing.

So it really sounds like it should just be a conversation, right? This ongoing conversation and not a big, hairy, oh-my-goodness event.

Absolutely. When you’re getting feedback once a year in a performance review, there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty associated with that. When you’re having a weekly conversation with your manager or a member of your team, that feedback really just becomes a part of your work life.

Readers, what are some of your tips for delivering great feedback? Share them with us in the comments!

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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