Giving and receiving feedback for team members

Feedback is important because it directs your attention to learning and development and supports motivation by helping you to see your progress towards goals. It is important that you receive feedback regularly. Performance feedback should also be a two-way process and feed into your personal development plan.

Remember that personal development plans are for everyone, not just those looking to be promoted. In an ideal world, everyone should have a development plan.

This guide has been created to assist you in getting the most from both giving and receiving feedback.


Importance of feedback

‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions.’ Ken Blanchard


‘Feedback is the fuel that drives improved performance.’ Eric Parsloe


We can all give feedback to people we work with. Giving and receiving effective feedback is closely linked with professional development and improved performance. When delivered effectively, the impact of useful feedback can:

  • Improve performance
  • Aid in learning and professional growth
  • Provide direction
  • Increase confidence, motivation and self-esteem
  • Help you understand your strengths and development areas
  • Allow you to implement strategies to improve how you work


Types of feedback 

Informal feedback is more common and is usually provided verbally on a daily basis.
Formal feedback is less common and is usually provided in writing as part of a structured assessment.


Informal feedback

Also known as impromptu feedback, informal feedback can be given spontaneously, without planning and in everyday settings; it does not follow a structured schedule. Informal feedback can be given to just about anyone, between colleagues, managers or teams. Examples of informal feedback include:

  • Giving praise
  • Suggesting a quick change


There’s less pressure when it comes to informal feedback because recipients do not know about it in advance, which can build up anxiety.


Formal feedback

Formal feedback normally takes place as part of planned 1:1s. It can include work performance documentation, an overview of competence and peer surveys. Formal feedback involves managers and leadership.


Formal feedback has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, if you know when your performance review is coming up, you have time to prepare, tie up loose ends and showcase your best work. However, it can put a lot of pressure on you. With so many people involved, it feels like you are being watched under a microscope. Examples of formal feedback include:

  • Annual performance reviews
  • Peer surveys (such as 360-degree assessments)


While it can be easy to take feedback personally, try to perceive it as a learning opportunity.


Feedback can reinforce existing strengths, keep goal-directed behaviour on course, clarify the effects of behaviour and increase your ability to detect and remedy errors on your own.


Use the tips in the following tables to receive and give feedback effectively.


Receiving feedback effectively
Listen to the feedback given This means not interrupting. Hear the person out, and listen to what they are really saying, not what you assume they will say. You can absorb more information if you concentrate on listening and understanding rather than being defensive and focusing on your response.
Be aware of your responses Your body language and tone of voice are forms of communication. Try to avoid putting up barriers. If you look distracted and bored, that sends a negative message. Attentiveness, however, indicates that you value what someone has to say and puts both of you at ease.
Be open This means being receptive to new ideas and different opinions. Often, there is more than one way of doing something and others may have a completely different viewpoint on a given topic. You may gain a different perspective or insight.
Understand the message Make sure you understand what is being said to you, especially before responding. Ask questions for clarification if necessary. Listen actively by repeating key points so that you know you have interpreted the feedback correctly. In a group environment, ask for others’ feedback before responding. As well, when possible, clarify beforehand what kind of feedback you are seeking so you are not taken by surprise.
Reflect and decide what to do Assess the value of the feedback, the consequences of using it or ignoring it, and then decide what to do because of it. Receiving feedback effectively means taking responsibility and accountability for a development plan or for areas where you can develop. If you disagree with the feedback, consider asking for a second opinion.
Follow up There are many ways to follow up on feedback. Sometimes, your follow-up will simply involve implementing the suggestions given to you. In other situations, you might want to set up another meeting to discuss the feedback.




Giving feedback effectively
Environment Choose the right environment for giving the feedback: if it is face to face, check that the location is appropriate; if it is via phone or virtual, ensure the recipient is located somewhere without distractions where you can talk confidentially.
Prioritise Prioritise your ideas. Limit your feedback to the most important issues. Consider the feedback’s potential value to the receiver and how you would respond: Could you act on the feedback? Also, too much feedback provided in a single session can be overwhelming to the recipient.
Concentrate on the behaviour, not the person One strategy is to begin by describing the behaviour in question, then explain how you feel about it and end by clarifying what you want. This model enables you to avoid sounding accusatory by using ‘I’ and focusing on behaviours instead of assumed interpretations.
Intent As the feedback giver, clarify what your intentions are and why you are giving the feedback. This will reassure the recipient that there are no hidden agendas and maintain the professional relationship between you.
Balance the content Ensure that you balance negative feedback with positive feedback, without favouring one or the other.
Be specific Avoid general comments that may be of limited use to the receiver. Include examples to illustrate your point. Suggest alternatives rather than just giving advice, to allow the receiver to decide how best to respond to your feedback.

Think about the language you use in terms of downgraders (‘kind of’, ‘sort of’, ‘maybe’, ‘perhaps’, etc.) and upgraders (that was ‘absolutely’ terrible) which either skirt around the issue (downgraders) or go over the top (upgraders). This is more commonly used in some cultures, so feedback givers should listen carefully to how recipients speak and try to match their style.

Own the feedback When offering evaluative comments, use the pronoun ‘I’ rather than ‘they’ or ‘one’, which would imply that your opinion is universally agreed on; evaluative feedback is merely your opinion.
Be timely Seek an appropriate time to communicate your feedback. Being prompt is key, since feedback loses its impact if delayed too long. Delayed feedback can also cause feelings of guilt and resentment in the recipient if the opportunity for improvement has passed.
Offer continuing support Feedback should be a continuous process, not a one-time event. After offering feedback, make a conscious effort to follow up. Let recipients know you are available if they have questions and, if appropriate, ask for another opportunity to provide more feedback in the future.