Give feedback that gives back

Posted by on Mar 8, 2013 in Professional Development | 15 comments

One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned in Toastmasters is how to give helpful and encouraging evaluations. I’ve learned the best feedback is constructive and motivating.

Most of us have many opportunities to give professional feedback. Managers need to give feedback regularly (not just once a year!), as do committee members, project leaders, team members, and customers. We all improve and grow from thoughtful feedback. When done well, feedback is energizing and engaging!

Giving feedback takes intentional thought, purposeful effort, and skill. Effective feedback highlights what was done well, what needs improvement, offers specific suggestions for improvement, and affirms the evaluated individual’s efforts.

How to evaluate to motivate!

How to give feebackPhoto credit: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

It’s not about you

Giving feedback is not about you. Feedback is most effective when it focuses on shared, organizational, or project goals.

Don’t judge

Assess the individual critically and without judgement. One way to do this is to consider whether or not an individual’s efforts were effective instead of sharing feedback based on whether or not you like them or what they did.

Ask questions first

Before you give feedback it can be helpful to understand the individual’s process, methods, and goals. Asking clarifying questions can help you make a thorough assessment that addresses real issues instead of evaluating based on assumptions.

Be specific

When giving evaluations it’s important to be specific about what was or was not effective, and why. Use examples- lots of examples!

Make suggestions and clarify goals

If an individual’s efforts were not effective, offer suggestions for improvement and clarify goals. Make sure they understand what they need to do differently to achieve better results.

Be direct

Getting right to the point will help the recipient of your feedback understand what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve.

Don’t try to soften the blow by preempting an evaluation with casual conversation as this method can be misleading and cause the individual to be surprised by your feedback.

Avoid hedging language such as “I just think”, “what you did was really good, but”, or “sort-of”, “perhaps”, “maybe”. Hedging language causes the listener to doubt your assessments.

Don’t expect perfection

No one is perfect. Mistakes are okay! Focus your evaluation on progress, not perfection. Consider where the individual is in their position, in their career, in their industry. If your expectation is based on ideals they will feel discouraged, not encouraged.

Give credit where credit is due

No effort is 100% effective or 100% ineffective. Make sure to recognize what was well done and ask for more of it! Encourage them to take it to the next level!

I love your comments! What other tips help you feel motivated when you receive feedback? 


  1. This is so true, and I think it`s something you can use outside the work sphere as well. If I compliment someone who`s made a cake for instance, I always like to tell them why, not just “this was great” but this was great because you used so good flavours, and the texture was awesome, how did you do that?” I like to give this kind of feedback in different circumstances, and I`ve realised people like it when I show some interest in their work.

    • Thanks for your awesome comment!

      I love your suggestion about giving compliments that are specific- what an excellent way to let others know you really appreciate them! Vague compliments are nice, of course, and specific compliments are even nicer because it lets us know exactly what people like or appreciate about us. As you pointed out, it really shows a genuine interest in others.

      Have a great day!


  2. Hi Chrysta,

    What a great list of practical suggestions! It reminds me of when I used to manage folks in the corporate world. I’d also adjust how I provided feedback to the person receiving it. To my logical thinkers, I’d preface by saying “To help you become even more competent…” To my more sensitive feelers, I’d have to really load on the things they did really well to offset the “bite” of the “constructive” feedback. Regardless of the personality type, though, your suggestions on being direct about the improvements and making sure we have a dialogue with the receiver of the feedback to converse about our suggested improvements are vital. Thank you for writing this very clear and succinct piece.


    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Alice!

      I love love love the suggestion you made to tailor feedback to the individual! Different people have different needs and different ways of processing new information. Altering feedback helps individuals understand and process feedback for maximum benefit. Skilled leaders adjust leadership and communication style not only to the individual but also the individual’s development.

      I appreciate you stopping by today. Have a grateful day!


  3. Hey Chrysta,

    I agree with everyone actually, great advice.

    It really isn’t about us and in order to give constructive feedback we need to be honest. Of course I only prefer to give constructive feedback on subjects that I know a lot about so in areas that I don’t feel I could help others I prefer to just stay quiet. I would probably go into that mode you said not to do like, that was great but… Yeah, I hate hurting anyone’s feelings but sometimes that just happens when you’re trying to help them improve.

    Your tips are always so helpful. You just explain things so well.

    Thanks Chrysta and enjoy your week.


    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adrienne!

      I can relate to not wanting to give feedback if I don’t know a lot about the topic, though I have learned in Toastmasters to stretch out of my comfort zone and be objective even when evaluating someone on a topic or skill I’m lacking. We start giving feedback as new Toastmasters so we can get better at it- even though in the beginning we might not be experienced speakers ourselves.

      I have a hard time imagining you hurting anyone’s feelings- you are so personable, helpful, and kind!

      Thanks for stopping by! Have a grateful day!


  4. Chrysta!

    I had to come over here and tell you, that you are really one of my favorite, absolute favorite people to read.

    You have such a way of saying things that not only reminds us (me, of course) of what we know is right and good, but possibly even more importantly, you say them in ways that always give me that “ahh” moment.

    I had to tell you (again) how much you mean to me. You help me stay the path. You keep me strong and motivated and you also never, NEVER, fail to inspire me to keep going, keep learning, keep trying. AND to keep smiling! (That part comes easy- looking at your picture smiling out at me.)

    I hope you have a lovely weekend and get the boost you need too.

    • Thanks so much for your awesome comment, Amber-Lee!

      You are so kind and I appreciate your words of encouragement and love! I started writing for myself and I love when my journey inspires and motivates others to live their best life and be thoughtful about how they treat themselves and others.

      Thanks for coming on this journey with me.

      Have a grateful weekend!


  5. All great advice, Chrysta. Being direct is essential. When it comes to feedback, we sometimes dance around it, making everyone uncomfortable. Also, when giving feedback, it is very important to do reflective listening in which we repeat back what we think we hear. It helps keep all in sync and makes the feedback process go much, much smoother. Thanks! Jon

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jon!

      I agree dancing around issue at hand just makes giving and receiving feedback uncomfortable! Directness and honesty is best!

      And thank you for sharing the suggestion to do repeat back what we hear- this is an excellent tool to improve communication and understand each other better.

      Have a grateful day!


  6. Love it, great post!

    I especially like you’re first piece of advice, it’s not about you. So true and important to remember. I think sometimes when people are driven to give “feedback” they really want to vent about their own frustrations! If you’re driven by intense emotions, you might want to check-in with yourself and get your bearings first. Or be clear, that you need to “get something off your chest!” and direct your feelings appropriately.

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Ariana!

      I, too, have seen people giving “feedback” in the form of venting their frustrations. I like to believe they think their words are going to spark positive change but sadly the actual result is simply sharing their frustration with others that can’t do much about it!

      I’ve actually had this happen to me not too long ago. I sat in a meeting with a manager that ranted about what wasn’t working for her without explaining what she needed from me. She kept repeating, “I can’t have this. I just can’t have this.” I felt so frustrated and stuck. Try as I might I couldn’t find a single productive takeaway from the meeting, which wasn’t helping anyone.

      Have a grateful day!


      • Sometimes the feedback you get in situations like that is that there isn’t anything you can do. The problem is deeper than you and you have the choice to investigate further or let go and move on. It all depends on how vested you are in the relationship and the situation. But being able to recognize, “it’s not my problem” is powerful, especially if you’re like me and have a strong sense of personal responsibility.

        • I love that you brought up personal responsibility because this is a trait we share. When someone comes to me with a problem, I want to do my part (if I have one) to find a productive solution. Learning what is and is not my part was and continues to be a lifelong lesson.

          Fortunately as I sat in the meeting with that manager I knew right away I had no part in her problem so I wasn’t stuck carrying around responsibility I didn’t own. Unfortunately she clearly stated to me that her problem was my problem and the result was I felt quite disengaged and discouraged in my job after that point. I felt I could continue to do my best work but it didn’t have a positive impact, which was a major factor that lead to my job burnout.

          Thanks for the thoughtful conversation!


          • That’s a difficult situation for sure! Good for you for taking a stand for yourself and changing your circumstances. We cannot control other’s, only our own actions, behaviors and reactions!


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