For some people in the business world, feedback is a scary word. Just as in the world of audio, feedback is a dreadful sound no one wants to hear, so too in the business environment, many people would rather shy away from either giving or receiving feedback.
And yet, feedback should never be considered a negative thing, or something to shy away from. It is a vital backbone that fosters the growth and improvement of teams. What’s essential is to strike the perfect balance between honesty, and being too harsh, and between being constructive, without simply being critical.
There are many guides on feedback available, but what we’ve noticed is that many of them are either far too formal, or far too vague, which runs the risk of missing the mark entirely.
This article is our attempt to hit that sweet spot, offering practical advice that’s straightforward, and can help create that much-needed culture of open, effective communication within your team.
Let’s make feedback something people actually look forward to!
FAQs on Giving Team Feedback
We’re going to dive straight in with some of the most common questions we see people ask when facing the challenge of having to give their team feedback. If these sound like questions you’ve asked, or worried about, then you’re in the right place, and far from alone in your concerns.
When is the right time to give feedback?
Always sooner rather than later. The best time to give feedback is while the event is fresh in people’s minds. But it’s also important to be mindful of how the other person is feeling, as well as the environment. If the person is anxious, stressed, or otherwise not in the best mood for receiving feedback immediately then, unless that feedback is overwhelmingly positive, it may be best to wait a little. But always aim to provide the feedback as soon as possible, as the relevance of what is discussed will be more helpful to those concerned, and other relevant details are less likely to have been forgotten.
How can I make sure my feedback is constructive?
Be clear, be specific, and make sure you focus on outcomes. Try to provide examples wherever possible, and be ready with suggestions for improvements. Remember that the feedback should lead to a two-way conversation in which both, or all, parties explore possible solutions together.
What if my feedback is taken the wrong way?
Make it clear that your feedback is intended to provide support and help, rather than be a judgment. Communication is key, and if there is any misunderstanding then quickly clarify what your intentions were, and emphasize the wish to help provide support. Always encourage dialogue so that the conversation is two-way, and do ensure you listen carefully to their point of view, as this could provide valuable insights, and open opportunities for wider growth.
How often should I give feedback?
Feedback should be provided regularly, but of course it’s important not to overdo it. Try to find a balance between not providing enough feedback, and providing so much that the core messages become lost or diluted. Putting into place a system in which regular one-to-ones is a great way to incorporate feedback into your routine.
How do I ensure feedback leads to actual improvement?
Following the feedback aim to set goals that are clear, and achievable, and which are based clearly on what was discussed during the feedback session. Follow up on these agreed goals to see whether there are any hurdles, issues you can assist with, and to see how progress is being made.
How can I encourage my team to be more open to receiving feedback?
The best way to achieve this is to lead by example. Show a clear openness to receiving feedback about your own performance, and create a safe environment in which everyone understands that feedback is a tool for development, not simply a way of delivering criticism.
What’s the best way to give feedback to someone more experienced than me?
It’s important to strike the right balance, respecting their experience and being honest about what you have observed. Try to frame your feedback more as a suggestion for consideration rather than a strict mandate to be enforced. This approach can be very helpful in fostering a sense of collaboration rather than confrontation.
Psychological Safety and Feedback
For feedback to be effective, the environment and atmosphere need to feel safe for team members, otherwise they’re going to naturally hold back from offering feedback and be more closed or defensive when receiving it.
Make sure that everyone knows and feels that they won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up, even if that includes challenging current methodologies, identifying mistakes or oversights, as well as offering ideas and suggestions, or raising concerns.
Creating this kind of environment involves recognizing the emotional and social factors that will influence the degree to which team members actively engage with the whole feedback process.
A popular framework used to help improve psychological safety is the SCARF model, which focuses on five key principles leaders can embed into their feedback routines – Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.
- Status: This involves recognizing each team member’s contributions, and making sure that their perceived status within the team or organization does not make them feel threatened. You can achieve this by highlighting their strengths and acknowledging their achievements.
- Certainty: As humans, we all need clarity and predictability – we don’t like the unpredictable, especially at work. Make sure that in feedback sessions, very specific feedback is provided that is very clear and actionable. with guidelines laid out on expectations and processes to make sure that everything is clear,and that there is little or no anxiety and, therefore, resistance to the feedback.
- Autonomy: Giving your team members a sense of control over their work, and the feedback process itself, can be extremely valuable. Try inviting them to set their own goals, or let them choose projects to focus on, as this fosters a sense of openness regarding the feedback process and can encourage much more engagement.
- Relatedness: This is about helping to create relationships within the team, creating connections and a sense of belonging. Supportive relationships or connections make giving and receiving feedback significantly easier, as there’s much less fear of any social repercussions.
- Fairness: It is vital to ensure that feedback is consistent across all team members, making it clear that it is unbiased, fair, and transparent. This fair treatment will help build trust and make the feedback seem fairer and much less personal.
These five principles together are crucial for creating a psychologically safe environment that is much more likely to encourage open and constructive feedback, which ultimately will help continuous improvement and growth across the whole team.
Strategies for Effective Feedback
Giving feedback isn’t easy, requiring a very careful balance between timing, delivery methods, and personalisation. Here’s a step-by-step guide to navigating this challenging process successfully.
- Prepare your feedback. Don’t dive straight in to providing feedback off the top of your head. Take time to collect your thoughts and observations, and make sure that you are very specific in your focus on behaviors and outcomes, not on personality traits. By taking the time to plan and prepare your feedback you can make sure that it is both clear and objective.
- Choose the right timing. It’s always best to provide feedback as soon after the event as possible, but it’s also vital to be mindful of when is not a good time or place. Providing feedback to someone who is stressed, or in a public setting is not recommended, in which case wait a while.
- Select an appropriate delivery method. The way you deliver feedback is as important as what you actually say. Should you deliver feedback face-to-face or in written form? The answer is that either could be the right answer. Individuals respond differently, and while some people may appreciate a direct approach, others a more nuanced one. Consider their communication style (do they tend to come and speak with you or send you an email?) and how they have received feedback in the past.
- Focus on growth and development. Try to make sure that the feedback you provide includes constructive suggestions for improvement, as well as appropriate support to help achieve it. Frame challenges as areas for development.
- Encourage a two-way dialogue. Feedback should be a conversation, not a lecture or monologue. Ensure you encourage team members to share their perspectives, ask questions, and suggest their own solutions. This conversational feedback approach can help foster understanding and collaboration on both sides.
- Follow up. Don’t just deliver the feedback and leave it at that. Ensure you follow up later to offer support, assess their progress, and help them work through any new challenges or unexpected hurdles. By demonstrating continuous engagement you show your commitment to their development and growth and their understanding of the value of the feedback process.
Tools and Resources
Within digital organizations, it makes sense to use the right tools and resources for providing feedback and ensuring it is fully effective. Here are a few of our recommended tools that can play a significant part in the ongoing feedback and collaborative environment of the modern business environment.
Atarim is a tool that offers a unique platform for agencies to both manage websites and handle client feedback directly on their website. It offers a visual collaboration feature that allows feedback to be left directly on a website, significantly streamlining the iterative process, and helping to improve the clarity of feedback.
Many agencies use Atarim as part of their routine feedback process in-house, with team members providing feedback on various aspects of the website design process, and leaders able to provide feedback in a direct, visual way that includes clear objectives.
Trello is a great tool for managing tasks and providing feedback in a visual format. It uses a board and card system which helps to make it easier to organize projects, assign tasks, and track progress. Trello integrates with several other apps, which makes it another ideal tool for providing feedback on projects and tasks.
Slack is an ideal tool for real-time communication, including the delivery of timely feedback on current tasks. As it integrates well with a range of productivity tools, it helps provide a seamless workflow and a way of delivering feedback in written form either live or as written messages for discussion asynchronously.
Google Workspace offers a suite of collaboration tools such as Docs, Sheets, and Slides that enable teams to come together and collaborate in real-time. The commenting and suggestions tools make it easy to give very targeted feedback on documents.
Loom is a video messaging tool that enables users to record their screen and narrate their comments. You can either use this to narrate a walkthrough of a project, task, or document, or include your face if you wish.
This is an ideal tool for working through more complex ideas, or for providing much more detailed feedback that might take too long to write out.
After Action Report
Feedback, when done correctly, isn’t just about improvement. It’s about motivation and connection too. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your feedback – it’s a great way to demonstrate your willingness to accept feedback yourself, and leading by example is always something to strive for.
And don’t forget to celebrate the wins too. Positive feedback is just as important as finding ways to improve. Positive reinforcement is the best way to reinforce the desired behaviors and outcomes, and ensure your team strives for excellence, and relishes the opportunity for growth.
Keeping the advice covered in this article in mind will help you foster a culture of continuous improvement, and build a team that’s resilient, motivated, and fully in alignment with your business goals.
When it comes to providing feedback on web design projects, Atarim remains the number one choice amongst the best industry-leading teams, providing a unique way of working collaboratively through a constant cycle of feedback that is based entirely within a visual framework.
With Atarim, you can collect, triage, and action tasks on your design projects. Like sticky notes on a webpage, your product UI, or ad creative, but better – Atarim is the visual collaboration platform trusted by industry-leading teams to get more done, faster. Ship your best work without the guesswork.
And you’ll be in great hands:
- Integrated into the leading visual collaboration platform trusted by 13,000+ agencies (web dev, design, and beyond) worldwide
- Supporting project delivery for 1,200,000+ of their clients and stakeholders
- Deliver projects in weeks instead of months
Get started with Atarim today, and discover how much easier visual collaboration and feedback can be.