Good quality feedback – be clear and make it simple

Let’s look at why it’s so important to get the feedback conversation right.   Here are some key considerations, and a useful model to help you give clear, simple, quality feedback.  

Feedback ‘noise’

In many ways we live in a permanent feedback culture – seeking ‘likes’ for every post we make, hoping for a positive emoji when we send in a piece of work.  We are surrounded by feedback ‘noise’.   Yet most of this feedback is fairly useless – it doesn’t tell us how to improve, nor does it tell us what we have got right.

Feedback without substance…just isn’t helpful

Being told you’ve done a great piece of work, but not being confident about what has made it good, is a very scary place to be.  How can you do another good piece?  What happens if the next piece is thought to be weaker?  What will you do?

If you are offering feedback to another person, focus on what will be most helpful for them.  Giving feedback is not about you getting your feelings ‘off your chest’ or dumping your emotions onto someone else.  If you can’t offer people feedback that is useful, then save your energy.

Feedback answers the question ‘why?’.  Why was this a good piece of work?  Why are you not pleased with the results?  Why are you telling me this?

You cannot expect someone to know what you know – it may seem obvious to you what has gone wrong or what has gone right, but it may not be obvious to your colleagues.

Perhaps the most frustrating feedback high performers get is along the lines of…

‘You’re doing great – just keep going’

What are they ‘doing great’?  Why is it ‘great’?  Could it actually be better?


Feedback can make a difference when you get it right…

If you are charged with managing or improving performance, you need to give people good quality feedback they can act on.  So, if someone is doing a good job, be clear about what is going well and tell them.  Then perhaps explore where they might like to push themselves, or develop new capability.  Strong performers don’t want to get bored, they want to keep growing.

If you have some tough feedback to give, where performance is not as needed, then be clear.  The proverbial ‘sandwich’ – where the news of not doing well is positioned between two pieces of positive news is deeply discredited.  All the sandwich does is encourage your colleague to reject the positive feedback as ‘only there to sweeten the pill’.    Keep tough feedback, constructive feedback – whatever you like to call it – to the point.  What performance is not as required, what change do you need to see?


Not sure where to begin?  A simple feedback conversation model can help

One of the simplest structures for a feedback conversation uses AIM as a model:

A            What Action did you observe? (most feedback should be based on your own observations, not hearsay from others

I              What Impact did the action have – positive or negative?

I (2)        Investigate further if you need to – what made the person successful, what could be done to increase/ improve the impact?  What caused the problem?

M            Moving forward do…. and make clear what you are looking for in future.

All you need to do at the end of this conversation is check that your colleague has understood, and then move on to the next subject, or close the meeting.  Keep it simple!


Many organisations say that their colleagues report not getting enough feedback, and yet don’t encourage a culture where feedback is the norm. 

What can you do to encourage feedback as a regular, positive activity for everyone?