The golden rules of giving great feedback

Your ability to give good feedback can help make or break a project. If you follow these simple rules your projects will go quicker, run smoother and turn out better.

Listen carefully, and ask questions.

The first step to providing good feedback is understanding the rationale behind the decisions that were made. "I don't like the red." isn't good feedback. It's a personal preference disguised as feedback. Focus on giving feedback that is non-opinionated and provides an opportunity for the person that created the work to provide context. A question like, "This color isn't in our brand standards. What's the thinking behind using this particular red?", will help you understand the reason the decisions were made so your input will be more informed and valuable.

Start with the nice.

Try to accentuate the positive in the first part of your communication. If you always go straight into critiques/revisions then the person you're working with will adopt a defensive stance. The result will be a combative conversation in which you'll be attacking and they'll be defending. You're on the same team and should act accordingly.

Make it actionable.

The worst feedback type of feedback you can give is non-actionable. "This isn't what I'm looking for." is a great example of the worst possible type of feedback. It gives no insight and provides no path forward. A better type of feedback would be, "I'm looking for something more along the lines of X, Y and Z. Here are some examples to help you better understand. What I like about this particular example is that it has strong imagery and a great headline."

Don't wait for others opinions.

Projects are built on timelines and the number one reason that timelines slide is because of lack of feedback. Don't wait on someone else's opinion outside of the core project team before providing feedback. They probably haven't taken the time to understand the context of the decisions. If you're incapable of providing feedback on your own, then you should let someone else lead the project.

Sooner is better than later.

The sooner you can provide feedback the better. Feedback is best received when a project is still hot on everyone's mind. They'll react quicker and revisions will be turned around faster. Never assume people will take your non-response as a positive sign. If you like what you see, say it. The faster you provide good feedback the sooner your project will be completed.

Written by Adam Harrell on May 27, 2009


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Yeah, the ability to give good feedback is one of the most important leadership skills, but sadly overlooked all too often.

This is great advice for anyone in business. As an English major, I received plenty of instruction about giving helpful feedback ... it was the only way to survive those awful creative fiction critiques. But I'm finding that many people in the business world don't know how to give or take feedback well.

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Adam Harrell