The Breakfast of Champions

Do you know that feedback is considered to be the breakfast of champions? Do you have a formal feedback process with your team at your workplace? How often do you ask your team members to give feedback on you? When I do that very often, I encounter radio silence. Not many people will provide honest feedback, especially if you are the one signing their paycheck. Without a regular serving of feedback, your organization and employees will likely starve in productivity and innovation. Remember, people who feel good about themselves produce good results, and people who produce good results feel good about themselves. It’s all based on feedback.

Feedback is information about a person that can help build self-awareness about the impact of their actions. The focus of feedback should be to help others to thrive. Good feedback speeds up learning and builds collaborative and engaged teams.

# Is There A Positive or Negative Feedback?

Sometimes we receive feedback that wasn’t so great. It may be because it is unexpected or based on hearsay or plain unfair or hard to understand. We may likely have felt hurt, frustrated, defensive, blind-sided, or unsure of what to do. Often, a bad experience receiving feedback is the most common reason people do not share feedback with others.

On the other hand, some people experience feedback that was a great experience? You may likely have felt appreciated, respected and that the person genuinely wanted to help you to improve. What was it about this feedback that made such a positive impact? Maybe it was well-timed, genuine, helpful, or specific enough to act on? Feedback like this builds happy, engaged, and high-performing teams.

We often think about feedback as positive or negative. It can make it a more stressful experience than it needs to be. A way to think about feedback that avoids this is as ‘reinforcing’ or ‘redirecting.’ In this framing, all feedback is positive. Reinforcing feedback is when your feedback encourages someone to continue a certain behavior. Alternatively, redirecting feedback encourages someone to adopt a new behavior in favor of an old one. In both cases, the focus is to help a person thrive. Criticism on its own is not feedback.

Whether your feedback is reinforcing or redirecting, your focus should be on helping a person to improve. For it to happen, it is important to ask yourself:

  • What impact do I want my feedback to have?
  • Is my feedback constructive?
  • Is my feedback actionable?

# Stop using blur words !!

Think of feedback that you could give to someone on your team. Maybe the team member is doing something great, or maybe it’s something you’d like to see change.  While giving feedback, do not use blur words or general statements that are not specific enough to be actionable. For example:

  • “You’re unprofessional.”
  • “Your email is too sloppy.”
  • “Your summary is awesome.”

None of the above examples have enough detail to be helpful and are hard to interpret and measure. What exactly is ‘unprofessional’? How sloppy is “too sloppy”? Blur words can result in well-intentioned feedback being misunderstood. They can cause distress and rarely support constructive change. Let’s look at how to avoid this? Simple, let’s be specific while giving our feedback and stop using the blur words. Let’s go back to the previous example and be specific to understand the difference.

You’re unprofessional. You were late for the meeting yesterday. It would have been great if you could have given the organizer a heads up in advance or apologized.
Your email is too sloppy. I noticed your email had a few spelling mistakes. Maybe do a quick spell check before sending.


Your summary is awesome.

Your summary captured the key points and made it easy to decide what to do next.

The most honest feedback is often given peer-to-peer and can teach us more about our engagement levels and improvement opportunities than we could ever hope to get from the top-down feedback and appraisals. It is important to know how our coworkers perceive us. We spend more time with them and have deeper and more personal relationships with them. Therefore their feedback is first-hand.

Also, every time you offer feedback, make sure that some of it are positive. It would be best if you gave equal importance to praising successes as you offer suggestions for improvement. One-on-one feedback discussions with team members should be private. Do not share the conversation with someone else. In giving feedback, you’re seeking to help the person and the organization. Nothing good will come from sharing one person’s issues with another.

Try writing a piece of specific feedback for someone you work with today. You don’t have to share it, but writing it down will help raise your awareness of the words you use.

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