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January 2007 - Motivating Others: Give Helpful Feedback

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John Kline, PhD, inspirational and motivational keynote and after-dinner speaker and corporate trainer.January 2007

Motivating Others: Give Helpful Feedback

Each of the previous seven columns presented a step to motivating others: inspire confidence, demonstrate enthusiasm, ask “what’s in it for others,” delegate responsibly, help people learn from their mistakes, listen effectively and communicate openly. The eighth step is to give helpful feedback. Here are five suggestions.

  • Focus on observations, not inferences. Careful observation is a key to helpful feedback. Don’t attempt to give feedback to others if you haven’t actually observed the behavior and are unsure of the facts; that is, if you are only responding to inferences based on circumstantial evidence or incomplete observation. Give feedback only on what you observed.
  • Be specific, not abstract. Avoid general comments and statements using such words as “all,” “never,” and “always,” which place arbitrary limits on behavior. Clarify such pronouns as “it,” and “that.” Specificity is a hallmark of clear feedback.
  • Share ideas, don’t give advice. Most people respond better to ideas or suggestions than to advice. Even when people ask for advice, consider how to couch that information as an idea upon which they can act.
  • Make certain feedback is of value to the receiver and not a release for you, remembering positive feedback with suggestions for change is more useful than simply giving negative information. And if the feedback you plan to give concerns something that can’t be changed, forget it.
  • Give feedback at appropriate times and on time. Feedback delayed is feedback denied. Feedback should be given as close as possible to the time when the behavior occurred. On the other hand, giving feedback when people are tired, hurried, or in the wrong frame of mind may be counterproductive. Carefully consider the time to give feedback.

A final thing to keep in mind. Seek feedback on your feedback. Always look for ways to improve your feedback to others. Next month we’ll look at another step to help you motivate others.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

January 2007 - Motivating Others: Give Helpful Feedback
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