14 effective feedback techniques and methods for giving better feedback
Effective feedback is a gift. When we use feedback techniques to share how we feel, what changes we'd like to see and give appreciation or constructive criticism, we create opportunities for growth and change. But for too many teams, feedback is a loaded word that can create a fear of judgement and negativity.
Use proven techniques for giving and receiving feedback to help your team feel heard, show appreciation and be honest about what needs to change. These methods below are great for holding a productive feedback session while also building the skills necessary for a continuous feedback culture. Let's dive in!
Techniques for group feedback
Finding space to give constructive feedback on a specific project or general group performance is an effective way to explore opportunities for improvement and make changes as a team.
While these techniques can also be used when giving personal feedback, they are most effective when looking at both individual and team performance in a group context. That is, having more public discussions that might come as part of a general reflection or retrospective. Bring them to your workshop or meetings to help small groups give each other feedback or reflect on a project.
It’s worth noting that some these feedback methods may not be suitable for delivering feedback that is sensitive in nature. If you’re looking for more formal feedback techniques you might use in a 1-1 employee feedback scenario, take a look at personal feedback techniques in the next section.
Start, Stop, Continue
Giving feedback can be daunting if teams haven’t yet developed the vocabulary or skillset. Frameworks that make it easy to give both constructive feedback are great ways to start encouraging regular feedback and build those muscles.
In Start, Stop, Continue, participants are given a short statement they must complete for each other member of their group or team. “Something I would like you to START doing is… Something I would like you to STOP doing is… Something I would like you to CONTINUE doing is… Signed _____.”
By using this three-step structure, everyone can give feedback to everyone else in a direct and simple manner. Think of it as a feedback sandwich that is loaded with opportunities for action and which doesn’t compromise the idea that feedback is a gift!
Encouraging everyone to give informal feedback when closing a project is a great way to create closure and positivity. Bus Trip is a great way to end a session on a positive note and create space for appreciation and positive feedback between a group.
Start by setting out chairs into rows like the seating on a bus. Inform participants that they’ll be powering the bus with positive energy and then get everyone seated. Ask people on one row of the bus to give as much positive feedback to the person in the other row as they can in 45 seconds. Swap roles and then mix up seating so that everyone gets to give feedback to everyone in the group.
This feedback method is wonderful to end a session in a positive manner. By using peer-to-peer employee feedback, it can also help build feedback skills and connections that will continue after the activity is complete.
Providing feedback should be a gift, though teams often get caught up in ideas of their being scary negative feedback that is meant to punish, and positive feedback, which is lovely, but potentially less useful. Starfish is an effective feedback method that is great for reframing a feedback session not solely as punishment or praise, but as an opportunity for growth.
With a five point star, participants are encouraged to write what they want the subject of feedback to keep doing, do more of, do less of, start doing, stop doing. It’s particularly effective when giving feedback on an event or situation, but it can equally be used when discussing team performance. It’s great for generating actions as a result of feedback, rather than just saying, this was good, or this was bad.
The visual element of the star is helpful for both creating a sense of equivalence between feedback items, but also for generating scattergrams that help capture group sentiment.
Thirty five for debriefing
Getting feedback from a large number of people at once can be an effective way to gain insights quickly, but without the right framework, it can easily become choatic or unproductive.
In this feedback method, group members are encouraged to reflect on past events or give feedback on a chosen topic and write down a lesson they learned on a flash card.
After writing their feedback, participants are then invited to wander the room and exchange cards multiple times before then getting into pairs. Pairs then distribute 7 points between the two cards they have based on the merit of the ideas or lesson. Repeat a few rounds before then finding out which cards got the most points and share them with the group.
Debrief by discussing the feedback process and top comments with the group. You’ll find that this method is not only effective for getting lots of feedback quickly, but also for building the essential skill of interpreting and reacting to feedback in a positive manner.
One Breath Feedback
One common pitfall of interpersonal feedback is of focus and clarity. One person may give carefully delivered feedback in a direct and clear way, while another may feel quite hurt and bring up instances of past behaviour, be defensive or otherwise go off on a tangent. Creating space for these feelings is important, but it’s often not the focus of a feedback session, especially in group settings.
One breath feedback is an effective technique for giving effective feedback very quickly and giving everyone in the group an opportunity to suggest ideas and share their opinion. The idea is simple: everyone has the space of one full breath in which to give their feedback on a particular topic or theme. It’s great for encouraging succinct feedback, especially as people only have time and space to mention the most important things on their mind.
AIR Feedback model
Pretty much all of the feedback methods above can be used in a personal setting, though these techniques also shine when using them in small groups where you might be trying to encourage our team to get into a habit of giving more feedback.
The AIR feedback model (action, impact, request) is a simple framework for constructive criticism and feedback. The emphasis is on making a SMART request so that the person receiving feedback can meaningfully act on what is a reasonable and well considered request. Because groups are also instructed to uphold principles such as being non-judgemental and asking people if they would like to receive feedback, AIR is an especially effective tool for teaching feedback skills.
Techniques for personal feedback
In most cases, personal feedback will be given in a 1-1 scenario between two people. This might be formal or informal, but they key is that both the person giving and receiving feedback feel best positioned to have that conversation without feeling judged or shamed.
Giving negative feedback in front of an entire team is likely to do more harm than good, and some issues are more sensitive in nature. Use these feedback techniques to host an effective conversation that will help both parties engage with feedback in a more closed setting.
As with any of these techniques, developing strong facilitation skills can help you run these methods more effectively. The other big ingredient for successful feedback is practice, so try giving and receiving with your team at the next opportunity.
One common feedback technique that’s come under some scrutiny of late is the feedback sandwich. With that technique, the idea was to sandwich one piece of constructive or negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback. One problem with this method is how it frames feedback under these two binaries and how it conflicts with the idea that feedback is a gift and an opportunity.
A feedback wrap is a more advanced method of providing feedback that provides enough context to move things forward without things turning into a blame game. Here’s how it works.
1. Start by providing some context of the situation to help the other person understand where you’re coming from. 2. List specific observations and further information about the situation. 3. Let the other person know how this makes you feel. 4. Explain what your needs are and why they are important to you. 5. Give space for the other person to figure out a solution but also feel free to make suggestions if you have them.
Team of Two
Our interpersonal relationships are important in every aspect of our lives. In the workplace, it’s not uncommon for issues or grievances to go unchecked and unresolved. But there’s a better way!
Team of Two is one of my favourite employee feedback techniques because it encourages both people in a working relationship to think about how they could help and be helped by the other.
Start by having two people who work together a lot write down they ways they might help the other person and the ways in which the other person might help them. Next, both people share and respond to the requests one by one, taking the opportunity to provide more detail or further context. The end result is a series of agreements for how both people will work together in the future.
In some scenarios, it can be more impactful to look to the future rather than looking to the past. If you’ve ever felt the struggle between wanting to draw a line under something but still have needs which are being unmet, feed forward can be an effective feedback technique to try.
The idea of the feed forward method is to focus only on ideas for the future and get agreement and alignment on what you might do to make those things happen. The ideas suggested during a feed forward are based on areas for improvement, just the same as when giving feedback, but by focusing on what could go right, rather than what went wrong, it can sometimes be easier to see positive behaviour change.
GROW coaching model
At its best, a feedback culture facilitates personal reflection and development. This coaching method isn’t a direct method for soliciting feedback like the above, but it does create space for feedback and reflection to happen.
In essence, this method asks coachees to give themselves feedback on their progress and then work with their mentor to figure out next steps. It’s a different approach, but a skilled leader or coach can use this framework to bring up feedback as and when it’s asked for and is appropriate. As part of an ongoing personal development process, it’s incredibly effective and organic.
Feedback techniques for improving feedback culture
A culture of consistent feedback is a habit of a high performing team. When individuals are given the skills and opportunities to give and receive feedback that can help them grow, the results can be transformative. But without the right framework or setting, it’s possible for negative feedback or unhelpful criticism to become order of the day.
These feedback methods are designed to help give teams the skillset and context for delivering feedback more regularly and effectively. If you want to improve employee feedback and create a culture that cherishes and provides consistent feedback, these methods are for you!
Principles of Effective Feedback
Creating a shared understanding of how and when your team wants to give, receive and explore feedback is vital for creating a healthy feedback culture. This method creates a space for groups to discuss, define, and agree on what good feedback looks like to them and how they would like to receive it.
Start by asking participants to share examples of when they’ve received helpful feedback and then extrapolate some underlying principles they’ll use as the basis for a feedback agreement on the team. End by asking for how the group will make this happen and ensure they use these principles. Not only will you have clear guidelines for how to give and receive feedback in your organization, but you’ll have people eager to start the process too!
Quick reviews in 1 minute
Not all feedback sessions need to take a lot of time. When trying to encourage employee feedback, it can be helpful to start small and give very easy opportunities for everyone to share what they think.
In this method, you’ll find various strategies for enabling a group to give feedback in just 1 minute. Whether it’s encouraging everyone to share three words for how they’re feeling, give a temperature level for how they’re feeling or share positive suggestions, bringing these ideas into your regular sessions can have a cumulative effect on your feedback culture.
Meeting closing round
Continuous improvement is the ultimate goal of a productive feedback culture. But does your team use every possible opportunity to review team performance and how they employees work together? Meeting closing round is a wonderfully simply and effective feedback technique you can use at the end of every meeting, workshop or other collaborative session.
At the end of your meeting, ask three simple questions: what went well, what could have gone differently and any other ideas? You’ll often find suggestions for improvement you can action immediately, alongside things you might try in order to improve performance moving forward. Use this method consistently and your employees will start building these feedback skills and considering other places where things could be better too!
In especially large teams, it can be hard for people to understand who, when and how they should provide feedback. Aligning on these items is an essential part of creating a culture of feedback, and this method helps you do just that.
Begin by scattering the names of everyone in a group or project on a whiteboard. Next, agree on a timeframe and then invite participants to draw lines connecting one another based on how they’ve worked with. Have employees circle three interactions they’d like to address with feedback and then choose an appropriate feedback method (Start, Stop, Continue or AIR are two great options.) for people to give feedback to those people.
Giving and receiving feedback is hard. You can’t expect people to navigate potentially sensitive or emotionally activating situations without a little help. We hope that these feedback techniques gives you and your team some meaningful ways to give and receive feedback and also improve your feedback culture in general.
Want to run a feedback workshop with your team to build those constructive feedback skills? Check out out effective feedback workshop template for an example session you can run when seeking to build a culture of consistent feedback.