The Art of Feedback

The Art of Feedback

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Dr. John Braland, IMF President

Leaders must learn how to give and receive feedback if they want their churches and organizations to stay healthy. In their book, “Thanks for The Feedback” authors Stone and Heen present three types of feedback: Appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Their book helps leaders to understand three types of feedback. This is a brief summary of what I learned from them.  

Appreciation, coaching, and evaluation are all important types of feedback, but they are also easily tangled together causing confusion for the recipient and frustration for the giver. If the feedback does not resonate with the recipient, it can be destructive and hurtful instead of helpful and encouraging. This is because everyone has feedback triggers that impact how we receive feedback. If a person feels the feedback is untrue, wrong, or unhelpful it may trigger feelings of anger, resentment, or frustration. If the relationship between the giver and receiver is stressed, the feedback may not be received or even given with the right motives. If the feedback makes us feel insecure it triggers a person to fight for their identity thus affecting the feedback.   

The three types of feedback.    

Appreciation. The purpose of appreciation is to see, acknowledge, connect, motivate and thank. When you appreciate someone, you let them know they matter. When your boss tells you how grateful they are to have you on the team, that’s appreciation. Appreciation is about relationships and human connection. It reminds us that we matter and are being recognized for our contributions to the organization. Being seen and understood by others matters. When someone shows appreciation to you, it energizes you and helps you lift your head a little higher. It puts a smile on your face and satisfaction in your heart. Think of a baseball coach who tells one of his players he is glad they are part of the team even before a single game is played. All of us want to know that we are needed and wanted on the team.

Coaching. The purpose of coaching is to try to help someone increase their knowledge, sharpen skills, improve capabilities, or change. The focus is on helping someone improve in some way. It might help them be a better communicator, manager, or even refine their skill set. Think of a baseball coach helping his player improve their batting skills. He might advise the player to stand with their feet spread apart, hold their elbow up, and keep their eye on the ball. If they do these three things they will have a better chance of hitting the ball.   

Evaluation. The purpose of evaluating is to rank someone against a set of standards, to align expectations, or to inform decision making. Evaluation helps a person know where they stand. Students receive report cards with grades to let them know where they stand in relation to the grading scale. Runners evaluate themselves based on their time to run certain distances; weight lifters are evaluated on the amount of weight they can lift. Your family evaluates your hamburgers or cooking skills by their comments of “this is great” or their silence. Think of a baseball player’s batting average. A ball player’s batting average helps the coach create the batting order that will give the greatest advantage to the team. Although every player is important, the best players usually hit in the top of the order. Evaluations are always in some respect comparisons to a set of standards, whether written or implied. Authors Stone and Heen wrote “Evaluations align expectations, clarify consequences, and inform decision making” (Stone and Heen, Thanks for the Feedback, p32).    

Each form of feedback is necessary and important because they each satisfy a different need that we have. If you are giving feedback, be sure to clarify what type of feedback you are giving. If it’s appreciation, appreciate. If you are coaching, coach. And if you are evaluation, evaluate. Don’t say “You are doing a great job and we really appreciate you. One thing you could do better would be to respond faster to emails. Everyone else at the office is better than you. Have a great day, thanks again.” This feedback is not encouraging at all. What is the recipient supposed to think? Do you really appreciate them if they are the worst in the office at responding to emails? The only thing you did is encourage the recipient to look for another job.

When I give feedback, I tell the recipient up front what type of feedback I am giving them. This helps them to understand what type of feedback I am giving them. If you share a positive evaluation is will also be received as appreciation. Positive coaching will also be received appreciatively if done properly.    

If you are receiving feedback, ask what type of feedback the giver is providing. By connecting the giver to the receiver in a constructive way, it will help you and your organization make forward progress. Trust will increase, creating a win-win scenario. Give your team the feedback they need to be successful. And if you need feedback yourself, ask someone you trust to give it to you. Great leaders are lifelong learners. 


Source: Thanks for the Feedback, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, Penguin Books, NYNY, 2015)



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