Effective Feedback Techniques: Flipping Feedback Upside Down

April 25, 2024

Effective Feedback Techniques

Feedback is a powerful tool that can make or break an individual’s growth and development. It can be a valuable gift that leads to success and well-being, but it can also be a dreaded message that is associated with negativity and criticism. The impact of feedback ultimately depends on how it is given, received, and acted upon. In this article, we explore effective feedback techniques art of giving and receiving effective feedback that can help individuals and organizations thrive.

Several common assumptions prevail about effective feedback techniques in the workplace.

  • One is that the boss must give it.
  • The second is that the person in authority will then initiate it, including the time and place it happens.
  • A third is that this information will be highly beneficial and well-accepted by the person receiving it.

While we have some data suggesting that there are occasions when those traditional assumptions are warranted, there is a far better way for it to happen. Powerful things happen if we scrap the belief that it is the manager’s duty and responsibility and make it a two-way responsibility.

If we replace the notion that feedback should always be “given” and substitute with the belief that it is best when requested, more vital forces are unleashed.

The Research for Effective Feedback Techniques

Our research found that those prone to asking for feedback are perceived as much more effective than those who do not. In a study of 4,213 people evaluated using a 360-degree assessment, we found those rated the lowest on asking for feedback (e.g., bottom 10%) had an overall effectiveness score in the 26th percentile. Those who were the most effective (e.g., top 10%) were rated by others at the 87th percentile. (In this case, the ratings were the averages of 9 raters (e.g., manager, peer, direct reports, or others).

Effective Feedback Techniques
Zenger Folkman Effective Feedback Techniques Study 2024

Analyzing the data by age group reveals that younger people tend to be more effective in asking for feedback. As people age, they become less effective. When younger employees are new to a job, many need to know how they are doing, which leads to asking for feedback. As people age and their confidence grows, they assume they must be doing well, so they ask less often.

The graph below shows results from 2,503 managers and individual contributors of 360-degree evaluations from others. Raters evaluated participants’ effectiveness at “taking the initiative to ask for feedback.”

ZENGER FOLKMAN Effective Feedback Techniques Study 2024

Even though the practice of asking others for feedback declines with age, we discovered that some people continued to be very effective at asking for feedback throughout their careers. Those highly effective (in the top quartile) at asking for feedback from others throughout their career had an overall effectiveness rating at the 80th percentile. This seemingly simple and innocuous skill had an enormous impact.

We further analyzed our data to understand more effective feedback techniques and the additional benefits of asking others for feedback.

Benefits of Asking for Feedback

1. Those who ask for feedback show significantly more willingness to change. When people ask others for feedback, their desire to change increases, and their mindset about the message they receive changes. The surprise factor is eliminated, and resentment goes away.

2. Those who ask for feedback are significantly less defensive when receiving it. Unsolicited feedback often provokes anger or hurt. This reaction has been called an amygdala hijack because it triggers the part of the brain that viscerally reacts to danger. This emotional reaction inhibits any possibility of a helpful outcome. Asking for feedback puts a person in the driver’s seat. They feel much more in control because they took the initiative to ask.

3. Those who ask for feedback are rated better at giving feedback. The practice they get from asking others for feedback or their signal to others about how much they value feedback makes them more effective.

4. Those who ask for feedback give significantly more positive feedback and praise to others. They also tend to give more positive feedback, which leads to them being rated as better at giving others feedback.

5. Those who ask others for feedback are rated as significantly better in building others’ self-esteem. Over time those who consistently ask for feedback receive insights that help them improve their interpersonal skills and their emotional intelligence. Exhibiting the courage to ask others for feedback also generates empathy and courage to recognize others.

6. Those who ask for feedback are more likely to give time and effort to help others improve. Because they have benefited from others’ feedback, they want to pay it forward and assist others in developing.

7. Those who ask for feedback are more inspirational. The ability to deliver results is often developed early in a person’s career. The consequence is that most leaders are more skilled at producing results than they are at inspiring and motivating others. Being effective at both skills creates the most effective managers and individual contributors.

8. Those who ask for feedback receive higher ratings for overall leadership effectiveness. This is the cumulative effect of all the above factors.

In conclusion, feedback is a powerful tool that can help you grow and improve in countless ways. By seeking feedback regularly and acting on it, you can gain valuable insights that allow you to refine your skills, enhance your relationships, and achieve greater success. So, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, and remember to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to learn and utilize these effective feedback techniques.

Joe Folkman

This article first appeared in Joe Folkman’s Linkedin newsletter, Leadership Psychometics, subscribe HERE