So what is feedback?
Well, at its most basic, we use feedback to “grow, show, or know.” More specifically, this means providing “developmental” or “evaluative” (sometimes both) feedback to help someone. And that someone shouldn’t necessarily be an employee who is getting a message from a leader. Feedback works best when it’s given peer-to-peer, leader-to-direct, and direct-to-leader. We’re all in this together. So what are the nuances between developmental and evaluative?
At the highest level, developmental feedback is based on a desire to grow or develop someone at an individual level. It provides detailed information on how behavior or performance can be changed or maintained. It also gives minimal indication or performance relative to others. In contrast, evaluative feedback is usually for a defined period of time and aligned to a specific competency. It’s often tied to specific rewards or compensation, and focuses on outcomes or relative impact to others. Lastly, feedback is not coaching. But feedback informs and drives coaching. Feedback is factually based and past tense. “In yesterday’s meeting, you did XYZ. Here was the impact.” Coaching gets into where you go from here.
Often times, people give compliments in lieu of feedback. “Great job in today’s meeting!” Thanks. But what was so great? This is a prime opportunity for specifics. “Great job” is more of an opinion—a compliment at its best (at its worst, it avoids giving detail and thoughtful insight). Instead, try linking what someone did to the expected results of the job, or something the recipient is working to improve. And don’t worry; you can still be complimentary: “Great job instilling confidence in your stakeholders yesterday. During the meeting, you answered every question with detail, affirmed next steps, and assigned deadlines appropriately. As a result, everyone left with a better understanding of his or her responsibilities, as well as where the project is going.” See the difference?