Giving feedback

While it is conventional for feedback to pass mainly from mentor to mentee, it is important to remember that mentoring is a development activity for both partners.

Mentors will ideally also be open to feedback from their mentee and so it is useful for both partners to have an understanding of the guidelines and pitfalls involved in this.

Consider asking some one to do a simple task, such as draw a circle. Afterwards you give them feedback.

Feedback
No, that is wrong
Feedback
Considering it's you, that's not that bad
Feedback
Thanks for doing that. You've got the shape but I was hoping it would a little larger and maybe slightly greener?

How are these three people left feeling after they have received their feedback?

  • It is quite likely that the first person feels annoyed and perhaps humiliated as they have been made to feel a failure
  • It is probable that the second person feels patronised and frustrated as you have suggested they were not really up to the task in the first place
  • The third person has been given feedback that started with a positive - the comment about the shape - and then made constructive comments about how performance could be improved in the future

The most important thing to remember about feedback is: make it constructive.

Consider these guidelines when giving feedback to someone

  • Focus feedback on what you have seen, not what you believe
  • Focus on behaviour - not personality
  • Keep it neutral - don't make a judgement
  • Use feedback to inform, not advise - Let others decide on their own actions and so take ownership of them
  • Make sure feedback is supportive, not threatening - Focus on the good things first, be respectful and understanding
  • Keep it simple and do not overdo it - You do not have to give feedback on all aspects of their behaviour at once

Choose your time
You can communicate your feedback in the most exemplary way ever and yet if you choose the wrong time or place it will not have any effect on the recipient. Bear the following in mind when giving feedback.

  • Keep it private - you wouldn't want others listening while someone detailed your development areas
  • Choose a 'good day' - we all have bad days sometimes when everything seems to go wrong. Do not add to someone's stress levels by adding your feedback. When we are in a downcast mood we are much more likely to take feedback as negative criticism rather than constructive information
  • A 'safe' place - personal offices might be the most convenient place to meet but will one of you feel at a disadvantage by not being on 'home' ground? Choose a mutually comfortable place to meet
  • Make time - you may not think you have much to say but the recipient may want to discuss the issues you have raised. Make sure you are not going to be interrupted and that you both have time for this kind of discussion