Tips on giving feedback, avoiding the buts.

Your colleagues expect your feedback. Whether it’s a pat on the back, constructive criticism or simply time to bring about a change, there are ways to make your feedback more effective and encouraging, regardless of its function.

When offering feedback to a colleague, give some consideration to where you are and to your timing. Never offer negative feedback in front of others; it is unprofessional and can damage the reputation of you and your colleague. You will also come across as uncaring.

The best place to provide feedback is somewhere quiet, like an office or meeting room. Feedback needs to come as soon as possible after the event (ideally later the same day or, if necessary, the following day). However, if you are feeling emotionally charged about something, hold off until you’ve got your own emotions in check first. That way, you will avoid saying anything you might later regret.

Feedback can be formal or informal. Informal feedback can be just as meaningful and valuable as formal feedback. Informal feedback, such as recognition for something that has been done well or offering a small reward for going above and beyond, can really lift a colleague’s day.

No matter what type of feedback you give and how you do it, keep in mind that your advice, for that’s what you are giving, should be intended to encourage the growth and development of your team; that is your role as their leader. Feedback can help employees towards their career goals, not just to meet the objectives of the school, or your specific department.

Managers often use a “feedback sandwich” to provide comment and to cushion criticism, using positive comments to frame something less positive. For example:

1) Make a specific positive comment

2) Offer a critique or suggestion for improvement

3) Make an overall positive comment

However, this technique has a downside; it does not take long for your team to learn your delivery technique. It then becomes human nature for them to filter out any compliment you make and to focus only on the negative comments. Therefore, instead of relying on a feedback sandwich, I recommend you encourage your colleagues to get involved in their feedback conversations. Most people know where things have gone wrong and often have their own ideas for improvement.

A final tip … try not to use the word ‘but’ especially in a compliment. The word “but” is a negative indicator, meaning that it negates whatever preceded it in the sentence. A listener often shuts out everything that comes before the word “but.”

Mark Beach

Richard Stevenson