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How to Give Great Feedback

Taking feedback is an important skill, but giving feedback is too. And most of us are terrible at it.

People value those who give great feedback. They're like great coaches: you might not like everything they say, but you do like seeing yourself improve and win.

Here are some rules for giving great feedback.

Give feedback as soon as possible. It loses relevance when you wait.

Follow Warren Buffett’s rule: “Praise in public, criticize in private.” 

Ask first: “Can I give you some feedback?”

Structure feedback as Kim Scott suggests in Radical Candor: situation, behaviour, impact.

“During the meeting yesterday, you cut off Mark several times, and that makes the team less likely to offer their thoughts. We need everyone’s input to make the best decision.”

Make sure to comment on the behaviour, and not the person’s character. Poor behaviour can come from good people.

Be as specific as possible. Generic feedback is useless.

It may be tempting to sandwich feedback within praise. Don’t. This is transparent, and people will appreciate it when you don’t try and cover things up.

Aim for a balance of praise and feedback. They can happen at separate times, or at the same time, but they should be direct and specific.

“Your opening slide was great! What a powerful way to start. I loved the anecdote in the middle too, I thought it told a powerful story. What could have gone better was the second slide before the end. I felt it was a bit muddled, and prevented you from ending on a high note.”

Give great feedback, and you'll build a following of loyal, high-performing people.

Succeeding in Spite Of

One of the questions I think about often: “Are they succeeding in spite of what they’re doing?”

The question reminds me of two things.

The first: success is built on consistency.

It doesn’t matter if your technique isn’t perfect, if your training regimen isn’t ideal, or the gym isn’t glamorous.

If you work out every day, you will get stronger.

The second reminder: just because someone is succeeding at something, doesn’t mean it can’t be done better.

Their success may be a result of sheer willpower. 

It may be possible to get 80% of their results with 20% of their effort.

Or it might be possible to get the same results much faster.

So, next time you’re using examples of success for guidance, ask: “Are they succeeding in spite of what they’re doing?”

Value and Consistency

One of my favourite questions: Are you playing the long game? Or the short game?

Hacks and shortcuts don’t win long-term.

The only way to succeed long-term is to provide two things: value and consistency.

On a large scale, the market rewards companies who provide those things over and over.

Amazon, Apple, Tesla—these companies consistently provide value. They continue to stay focused on their mission and their customers.

On a small scale, the same is true.

James Clear published over 100 blog posts a year before he ever sold a book.

Tim Ferriss did the same.

Both provided value to their followers over and over, for years. They grew one fan at a time.

There are no quick wins.

Only those that provide value, over, and over, and over.

To Do Good Work, Feel Good

The other day someone asked me: “When do you do your best work?”

I answered without thinking: “when my body feels good.”

One Tony Robbins quote has always stuck with me: “to change your mind, change your body.”

Growing up playing hockey, we often stuck to the adage: “look good, feel good, play good.”

The common thread: we are at our best when our bodies are prepared—mentally and physically.

The inverse also holds true.

You can’t do good work if you feel terrible; if your body is protesting; if your thoughts are elsewhere; if your mind is racing.

To do good work, we must feel good.

That means taking care of our bodies: eating well, exercising, recovering, sleeping enough.

It means taking care of our minds: spending time with friends, spending time outside, in nature, and meditating.

Next time your mind is feeling stuck, check your body.

You’ll find one follows the other.

We Suck at Estimating

We’ve all done it.

We sit down, plan our day, and end up with ten items on our to-do list.

“That seems reasonable."

The end of the day rolls arrives. We got a couple of our items done, but not the most important one.

How many times have you thought you’d finish something in an hour or two, only to have it drag on for days?

How many times have you had an item on your to-do list that sat there for weeks?

It happens to me all the time.

I used to think it was poor planning.

But as humans, we’re susceptible.

Daniel Kahneman, the well-known psychology researcher, termed it “the inside view.”

When we look at a task or project, we tend to ignore previous examples of how long something took. And we consistently underestimate as a result.

The solution isn’t simple.

I’ve taken to solving it by choosing to focus on only one single thing per day. If I get that one thing done, it’s a good day.

But what about long-term planning?

That’s much trickier.

Building in buffers, being conservative with estimates, and continuous calibration can help.

Taking the “outside view” and looking for previous examples helps too.

But ultimately, we need to recognize that it’s going to be hard to estimate long-term.

Instead, we should be focusing on the first thing, and then the next thing, and then the next thing, until we reach our goal.

Accept we suck at estimating.

And then take it one step at a time.