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5 steps to giving and receiving feedback or How to get your team to learn fast

Have you ever found yourself falling again and again into the same patterns of behaviour, producing the same unhappy results?

Habits are hard to kick. The surest way to change the outcome of a situation is to change what you are doing. This means replacing a habit that produces undesirable results with a habit that brings good results.

Teams, whether at play or at work, also slip into habitual patterns of behaviour as they iterate through rounds of routine tasks. It is hard enough to change personal habits but changing habitual team behaviour can seem like an impossible task.

It helps to establish effective team habits as early as possible in their formation. It can be very difficult to change habituated team behaviours once they have been established because team members will often resist change.

There is an art to building a resilient team able to learn from experience. A team that makes changes and is able to respond to situations rather than react.

Is it possible to build this desirable feature of a team into the regular habitual work of a team?

The key is to embed learning into teamwork. This involves the team learning together about what works and what doesn’t work. Giving and receiving feedback is the quickest and surest way to embed learning into a team’s routine.

Here are the 5 steps to giving and receiving feedback:

Step 1: Ask

Only give feedback when a team member asks for it. It takes a certain amount of emotional readiness to receive feedback. We need to be ready.

After any routine event, the organisers need to get into the habit of asking for feedback. It’s important that the person seeking feedback does not engage in defending what happened or try to answer back. Receiving feedback requires being able to hear what others are saying whilst being still and attentive.

Giving feedback involves sharing your thoughts about what could be rather than why things went wrong. Answering the what question allows learning, and removes the need for the hearer to defend or explain themselves.

Step 2: What could be retained?

Be specific and detailed about what could be retained. It's important here to savour the event. Think carefully about it and reflect on how its features worked to produce it.

Step 3: What could be increased?

It helps when answering this question to explore future possibilities and options. Think about how, by adding an element to the event, it may improve the outcomes. Events have an emotional tone, involve furniture, lighting, air, and movement. Which of these elements could be increased?

Step 4: what could be decreased?

This is a crucial part of the feedback. There may have been things that went wrong in your view. Reframing this as actions that could be decreased to achieve the results desired, respects the agency of your team members. People learn better when they are honoured and treated with dignity.

Step 5: Thank those who gave feedback

The person receiving feedback needs to remain silent until the process is over. Thank those who have given feedback without attempting to respond or reply. This allows space for reflection and time to consider what changes need to be made in the next iteration.

Over the years since I learned this approach to giving and receiving feedback, I have had the opportunity to practice it in many teams and organisations. It has proven itself to be a really effective team habit.

Practice it with your team. Introduce this as a routine work protocol. You will be astounded at how effective it is.


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