Giving feedback

I have written elsewhere about the challenge of receiving feedback, but recently read Brene Brown’s excellent ‘Dare to Lead’, and was impressed by her advice for those offering feedback in a professional or personal context.  How do we get the balance right between being supportive while being constructively critical?  Can we ensure we are both sensitive and honest? What can we do to encourage the recipient to be responsive and receptive, so that our conversation enables them to move forward, make progress and feel more positive, rather than less positive, as a result?

I am aware of how raw many people are feeling in the current challenging circumstances.  It might be especially difficult to have these sensitive conversations at the moment, when both we, and those we are talking to, may feel a range of strong and potentially destabilising emotions.  Following a Teacher Development Trust #CPD ConnectUp session I led with Kathryn Morgan, I wrote a post about that here, which includes a number of practical, constructive suggestions shared by the participants in that session.  Kathryn and I have also co-authored an article for tes magazine on the same subject (due to be released in July), which we hope readers may find useful as they prepare for and then move through the process of emerging from lockdown and gradually building the numbers of those in our schools, with the potentially intense conversations that may result.

We may have to have emotionally-loaded conversations for a range of reasons, on a number of different subjects, with a variety of people.  The conversations we have in which we have feedback to offer may be particularly demanding, and Brene Brown’s advice should, I think, be helpful.  This is what she suggests:

“Are you in the right headspace to sit down and give someone feedback?

I know I’m ready to give feedback when…

  1. …I’m ready to sit next to you, rather than across from you.
  2. …I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it towards you).
  3. …I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
  4. …I’m ready to acknowledge what you do well instead of just picking apart your mistakes.
  5. …I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
  6. …I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming.
  7. …I’m open to owning my part.
  8. …I can genuinely thank someone for their efforts rather than just criticizing them for their failings.
  9. …I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to growth and opportunity.
  10. …I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.”

Best wishes with these conversations, whether they are personal or professional.  Avoiding them is never going to be the answer.  Managing them sensitively, with empathy and understanding but also with a commitment to making things better, rather than worse, and to moving towards positive outcomes, might just be…

Do you have any further suggestions to offer which might help others? Please add below, if so. Thank you!


2 thoughts on “Giving feedback

  1. A few points to add that to the list:
    – Are you ready for an emotional response?
    – Are you clear on the aim of the feedback?
    – Are you able to offer support and resources?

    Great blog as usual Jill and lots to consider when giving feedback under normal circumstances let alone these very disconcerting times.


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