In order to make feedback effective, it must be based on the desire to change and take action. In other words, the best kind of feedback is actionable. What exactly does that mean?
Take Susan. At her new job, she has just given her first presentation to potential clients. Days of work have flowed into the preparation and so now she is anxiously awaiting her boss´ feedback. Passing by in the hallway, he turns to her and says, “Nice effort on the presentation, Susan. You just weren´t really able to convince me though. Next time, be sure to also clean up your slides a bit.”
Susan´s boss means well and wants to motivate her. Unfortunately, he leaves her with little more than guess-work on how to improve her next presentation. There is no clear guidance on how to change the things he mentions. In other words, it is everything but actionable.
Try to avoid framing feedback like Susan´s boss. It´s not that hard: in fact, there are two key elements that will help make your feedback actionable.
It will be well worth your time- John Hattie´s decades of research found that feedback was among the most powerful influences on achievement. If you´re going to do it, you might as well do it right.
First, give feedback that is specific, concrete and useful; this is the key to making it actionable: refer to what worked well and also what could have been better by providing precise information. In this simple example, Susan´s boss could have mentioned that more facts or figures would have convinced him. Or, that Susan had used too many bullet points. In other situations, giving actionable advice may be more complex and difficult - however, even more important. The idea is to leave the receiver with a clear idea of how to improve next time, otherwise an important opportunity for learning is lost.
Progress Toward a Goal
The second crucial aspect of what makes feedback actionable is tying it to a specific end goal. What might this look like? Let´s turn to sports for an analogy. If you imagine an athlete competing in a race on the track- at the end of each lap, the coach usually yells out the times for each lap and gives feedback (“You´re slouching, straighten your shoulders!” “You´re three meters ahead of your competition!”) in addition to advice (“If you keep going at this pace, you´re going to reach your goal!”) The athlete is given feedback and advice regarding how he or she is performing compared with a desired final outcome. By incorporating this into your own feedback process, you will also increase the receiver´s motivation for changing his or her behavior, as the consequences are apparent.
Following the above-mentioned steps when providing feedback will help ensure that the receiver will end up with value and is given the chance to perform better next time around. Making feedback actionable should definitely be one of your employee motivation techniques and basic leadership skills.