Giving and Receiving Feedback

Discover a five-step process for building a communication culture in your organization that thrives on giving and receiving feedback.

Giving feedback simply means telling people how theyre going at work. But the real art of feedback is the ability to also accept feedback yourself being prepared to listen to what others tell you, without being defensive if its bad news.

Building a communication culture in your workplace, where everyone is comfortable about giving and receiving feedback about their performance, builds staff morale. Accepting feedback yourself helps you discover ways to improve your own or your business performance.

Many managers though equate feedback with delivering bad news, with criticism of poor performance. But feedback also can, and should, be about giving good news. The reality seems to be that it isnt often done.

Giving, and receiving, feedback starts at the top, with the business owner, the manager, even with the team leader. It means stepping back from the immediate action to look at the bigger picture, at the business from a leaders perspective.

What do leaders do? They do things that inspire people to follow them, to help them build the business. Your people need to know exactly what they have to do, or not do, and how well they are going. They need feedback and so do you.

As a leader you can give positive feedback, deliver negative feedback in a constructive manner and also encourage feedback for yourself. This kind of give and take builds a communication culture that encourages employees while it builds your business.

Developing a feedback culture in your workplace really isnt difficult. Once you change your thinking from manager to leader the rest is easy. Very simply, it takes a five-step process to build more effective employee relationships. You can use this process to guide your reflection as a leader.

Learn why you need to be a leader, what people want from a leader, what it takes to be a leader and how feedback is an essential part of leadership

Clarify your vision for the business or department and decide what needs to be done to achieve it.

Learn from research what all staff want; then apply some practical strategies for improving your own workplace relationships and business.

Turn your staff into a team and have fun, whether you own the business or manage a team or department.

Deal with the hard stuff constructively, knowing what to say and how to say it. Then encourage staff to give you feedback.

Developing a communication culture means encouraging people to feel comfortable about giving and receiving feedback about their performance in the interests of better business and their own personal development. Feedback doesnt have to be negative; indeed there are far more occasions when positive feedback should be given. As a leader, you can seek those occasions using the above simple five-step process.

Expert Author:Jennifer McCoyDipEd, BA, MMgt, MEdStud, ACC

Learn more about the five-step process and how to build an effective communication culture in your organization. Download our practical guide today and start developing your leadership communication skills.

Create a culture in your workplace where everyone wants to give their best. How?

Check out our down to earth practical guide for giving and receiving effective feedback.

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Quickly assess the health of the culture in your workplace with this easy to use checklist.

7 Steps To Effective Feedback

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Last week, our educoach chat (a twitter chat dedicated to instructional coaching and professional learning) focused on the topic of giving feedback. We shared our own experiences giving and receiving feedback and reacted to articles from the most recent issue of Educational LeadershipFeedback for Learning(September, 2012, Vol. 70, No.1). Feedback is a topic we delved into in depth this summer as part of our book discussion chat on John HattiesVisible Learning For Teachers. Synthesizing more than 900 educational meta-analyses, researcher John Hattie has found that effective feedback is among the most powerful influences on how people learn. (John Hattie,Know They Impact, Educational LeadershipFeedback for LearningSeptember 2012, Vol. 70, No. 1)

Ive recently come to embrace the idea that great principals and great teachers have at least three important habits in common.

In7 keys to effective feedback, an article in the most recent issue of Educational Leadership (Feedback for Learning: September, 2012; Vol. 70, No.1), Grant Wiggins writes: the termfeedbackis often used to describe all kinds of comments made after the fact, including advice, praise, and evaluation. But none of these are feedback, strictly speaking. Basically, feedback is information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal. Wiggins then shares that helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.

Giving feedback is not easy for principals for a variety of reasons. There is the challenge of time. With 56 teachers in my school, and only one of me, offering feedback that is timely, ongoing, and consistent has been difficult. There is the challenge of experience. Most of us have given and been given advice, praise, or evaluative critique rather than feedback. And, perhaps most significantly, there is the challenge of role expectation. Principals, at least as I was trained years ago, have been viewed primarily as evaluators, giving expert advice and assessment, rather than sharing nonjudgmental observations with teachers for the purpose of professional learning and growth.

Despite the inherent challenges, I have come to recognize that giving feedback effectively to teachers can be among the most significant contributions a principal can make to improving the quality of learning in our schools. So, how can principals overcome the challenges and offer effective feedback? For your feedback, I share the seven steps to effective feedback I am using.

Step One: Schedule significant time be in classrooms.

What is in our calendar gets done. It is difficult to offer effective feedback without having experience of learning and teaching, day in and day out, in our own schools. My own practice is to schedule two hours daily to be present in classrooms for learning and teaching; either observing or preferably engaging with learning in whatever ways teachers request.

In addition to daily time in classrooms, I schedule six No Office days during the year, one with each grade K-5, on which I spend the entire day, from arrival to dismissal, with a grade. Teachers can assign me to do whatever they would like on these No Office Days. These days are valuable to me in assisting me to get a feel for the rhythm of the day in each grade.

This year, as a birthday gift to each of our teachers, I will be teaching one period of their class on their birthdays. I also hope to cover for an hour on the birthdays of our other building administrators, office staff, and perhaps even our maintenance crew. Teachers and staff members can schedule the birthday class so that they can come late, leave early, extend lunch, or remain and watch me. (There is already a line of teachers hoping to observe me teach physical education, which should be a class filled with good spirit, humility, and laughter.) Teachers and staff members can also take a rain-check for another day at their convenience if their birthday is not on a school day or even if another day will simply work better for them. In addition to offering teachers and staff members the gift of time, which I wish I could do even more often, teaching each class will offer me perspective on the joys and challenges of learning and teaching in our school.

Step Two: Schedule time for formal conversations with teachers to discuss professional learning goals, supports to reach goals, and to assess progress being made.

This year I will be scheduling three formal meetings during the year with each of our faculty members. At the first meeting, taking place between September and November, we will set together a professional goal, an action plan to meet the goal, supports to reach the goal, and criteria for measuring progress and success. At the second meeting, scheduled between December and February, we will discuss progress toward the goal, confer on how supports are working, speak about whether feedback offered has been helpful, and make modifications as necessary. At the third meeting, taking place between March and the end of the academic year, we will reflect on professional growth during the year.

Success will not be determined based on whether teachers meet their goal. There could be a goal easily met without much growth or a stretch goal, not met yet with enormous professional growth. Each teacher will fill out rubrics we created together as a faculty for our schools Standards for Professional Practice. I will fill out the rubrics for each teacher to the best of my ability based on observations and conversations we have throughout the year. These rubrics are not only an assessment for teachers, but are also an assessment for me and my knowledge of learning and teaching in each classroom. I will leave blank what I cannot complete based on direct knowledge of learning and teaching in each class, thereby recognizing those areas about which I need to learn more. Each teacher and I will compare the rubrics and discuss.

Step Three: Make feedback nonjudgmental and goal-focused

My notes on classroom visits will offer nonjudgmental feedback; phrased with the prompts we as a faculty have learned to use together on our learning walks in each others classrooms: I notice. I wonder. What if? How might? I will strive to connect feedback to each teachers professional learning goal. And, I will seek teachers input on what type of feedback and information will be most valuable to them as well as on whether the feedback I am offering is helpful.

Step Four Make use of technology as a support, but focus on the relationships and face to face interactions

I have created a notebook in my very favorite app, Evernote, titled teachers and I have created a note for each of our teachers. I will add to the note after each of our formal meetings and after each classroom visit. Each time I add to a teachers note, I will send the the teacher a copy with the most recent additions at the top of the note. These notes will become a record of our ongoing reflective conversation and will take the place of a formal evaluative end of year write-up.

Although utilizing Evernote to organize myself, I will focus on face to face interactions. I wont bring my computer or Ipad into classrooms as teachers rightfully complained last year that I wrote on my Ipad in class rather than engaging in learning. I will carry my cell phone, primarily for emergencies during which my administrative assistant texts me. Having the phone with me does enable me to jot down a note if really worried I will forget. Generally, however, I remember what I want to write and record notes after students have left for the day. Some teachers write back to me, reflecting on feedback. Just as I have had meaningful conversations with colleagues in my professional learning network utilizing social media, I have had meaningful conversations with teachers in my school using e-mail. Other times teachers stop me in the halls or request time to speak to follow up on feedback offered and I love those ongoing face to face interactions. All teachers will have a minimum of three face to face conversations in which I focus my attention exclusively on their professional learning.

While in classrooms, if I am not interrupting, I will share a compliment with each teacher on the spot. I recognize having a visitor in ones class and hearing nothing can be disconcerting. Regardless of whether I can speak directly without interrupting, either in class or face to face afterward, I will share a compliment on something wonderful happening in the classroom along with the brief, written feedback I send. While I accept Grant Wiggins explanation that feedback and compliments are not the same thing, and I do strive to make a clear distinction, it is important to me to ensure that I compliment and show appreciation for our teachers regularly.

Step Six: Be transparent about evaluation

I plan to function far more with a coachs hat than an evaluators hat; yet if at any time I need to relay a concern as an evaluator, I will be direct in letting teachers know I have on my evaluators hat and am giving advice or clarifying expectations rather than sharing nonjudgemental feedback.

It is vital for me not only to offer feedback, but also to receive feedback, opening myself to perspectives of teachers, staff members, parents, and students. I have thus sought to create a multitude of venues in which I request and strive to embrace feedback. As I share feedback with teachers, I simultaneously ask teachers for feedback. I was gratified when one of our new teachers shared that the two phrases she hears over and over are:How can we help you?And,give us feedback so we can do better. Our PTO provides valuable feedback from parents and I schedule parent-principal conferences on parent-teacher conference days and throughout the year, encouraging parents to speak with me directly. I continue to consider ways in which to receive feedback from teachers, other administrators, staff members, parents, and students. And, I will openly acknowledge, I appreciate the compliments I sometimes receive as well.

In line with seeking feedback, I ask for your thoughts. What do you notice and wonder about these seven steps and about effective feedback more generally? What other considerations might be helpful? How might you adapt or improve upon these steps?

[] cc licensed image shared by flikr user Last week, our educoach chat (a twitter chat dedicated to instructional coaching a []

[] cc licensed image shared by flikr user Last week, our educoach chat (a twitter chat dedicated to instructional coaching and professional learning) focused on the topic of giving feedback. []

[] cc licensed image shared by flikr user Last week, our educoach chat (a twitter chat dedicated to instructional coaching a []

[] cc licensed image shared by flikr user Last week, our educoach chat (a twitter chat dedicated to instructional coaching a []

[] read a post on twitter via @johnwink90 and Connected Principals referenced Grant Wiggins comments on feedback.  He stated that helpful feedback is []

[] 7 Steps To Effective Feedback []

Ensuring feedback is delivered effectively is vital to developing trusting and productive professional learning communities. Just posted a blog on our site on this topic too, education Mike Fleethams three things to remember when delivering effective feedback

Thanks for your feedback, Charlotte!

Your thoughtful post causes me to wonder about ways we can translate for ourselves the expressed annoyance, frustration or upset of others into feedback that can assist us to grow. It seems to be human nature to be more worried by negative comments than we are bolstered and supported by positive comments. Feedback, alternatively, well delivered, is neither negative nor positive, but rather nonjudgmental observations or insights on progress toward a goal. It has been helpful to me to use the discipline of nonjudgmental prompts: I notice, I wonder, what if? How might?

So, I wonder. Perhaps we could translate the words of the mother in the story you share to: I notice some of the adults here express annoyance at the behavior of children. How might we create an environment that is more child-friendly?

Its not easy to respond nondefensively when faced with people upset; but the potential growth makes it seem to me to be well worth the effort.

I look forward to continuing the conversation!

[] Feedback matters. Ive recently come to embrace the idea that great principals and great teachers have at least three important habits in common. [1]They offer feedback effectively. [2]They have strong feedback loops for themselves, learning and growing professionally by incorporating feedback they receive. [3]They show appreciation. []

I think that giving feedback anonymously allows people to be frank, but anonymous feedback is often not taken seriously because it may not be given by people who matter. There is a free (and add free) site made for this purpose: to allow anonymity but still guarantee that the feedback could have only come from key stkeholders. Its pretty ingenious. The site is

Many of us long for information about how people really feel. And, its valuable to tap into those in our communities who will honestly and respectfully tell us. While the site you share could support sharing truth, it very much depends on how it is used and could easily turn into the type of unkind, unproductive statements we work so hard to discourage. I wonder about the name drop a truth bomb and wonder whether respectful responses would be more encouraged if the site was called supportive feedback. From my perspective, sharing how we really feel is different than feedback. Feedback, as per Grant Wiggins definition quoted above, is information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal. For information on how we are doing in moving toward reaching our goals, particulary when we set ambitious, stretch goals, I do believe strongly that we need open, transparent, trusting relationships. Such relationships are challenging to develop for many reasons but I believe are well worth the effort and investment.

I appreciate you raising the important topic on how difficult it is to encourage people to share their honest perspectives. Its a topic worthy of much more reflection and conversation. Thanks!

That is a good point. I work on the sites development and will take that into consideration very much.

[] cc licensed image shared by flikr user Last week, our educoach chat (a twitter chat dedicated to instructional coaching a []

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