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About Philippa Kennealy

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC is The Entrepreneurial MD Business Coach who wants to help you build your business!
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Top Ten Tips for Effective Feedback: July 2007

What's it like to have a colleague, an administrator or a spouse bark some snide or unflattering remark at you, in response to something you have or haven’t done?

I bet it puts you in a bad mood for a while!

We are all in a position to provide, and accept, feedback multiple times a day. This is part of the normal give-and-take of interpersonal communication. As a physician entrepreneur, you will need, perhaps even more than most, to give feedback – to employees, contracted vendors, advisors, and even customers or patients.

Imagine being able to shape the outcome you want by reacting and responding to others in ways that enlighten them, leave their self-esteem intact, and permit you to tell courageous truths!

This can be done with great effectiveness, by following a few guidelines.

The top ten tips for effective feedback are:

1.    Make it timely – don’t separate the feedback too far from the event, otherwise it loses its impact.
 
2.    Make it consistent – give feedback, both positive and negative, at regular rather than sporadic intervals. Remember – genuine praise is a powerful part of many people’s internal “reward system”.
 
3.    Make it specific – don’t point out all the person’s deficiencies when you are providing feedback about a specific situation.
 
4.    Make it descriptive, not evaluative. Describe your observations and LEAVE OUT your interpretations and judgments. Say: “I notice that you have missed the last three meetings- what’s that all about?” instead of “You don’t care about the project because you keep missing meetings ……..”.
 
5.    Avoid emotional “digs” – when you are angry, it is tempting to use biting sarcasm or nasty comments. Don't!
 
6.    Direct it at the behaviors or results, not at the person. Say “I was upset when you forgot to finish the task” instead of “You’re an idiot for not doing what I asked”! Or say “I really liked the way you handled that person’s complaint” instead of the less meaningful “You’re a good worker!”.
 
7.    Show empathy – try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand their feelings (ask powerful questions such as “I imagine hearing this might be tough for you. How's this making you feel?”)
 
8.    Be candid without being brutal. You can be very candid if you stick to sharing observations, directing your feedback at the behaviors you have noted, and demonstrating empathy.
 
9.    Be appropriate – make the feedback appropriate to the situation and avoid exaggeration or generalization. Stay away from “You ALWAYS…” or “You NEVER…”
 
10.    Make it meaningful - make your feedback useful to the person receiving it. Clarify your expectations about how you want the situation handled or things done in future. Make your requests very clear, to avoid any misunderstandings. “In future, I’d appreciate it if you don’t make personal calls on the job – we don’t allow that here, unless you are on a break”. Don’t make the other person read your mind!

As you can guess from the above, these guidelines work not just in business, but for all the people in our lives - except perhaps in cases of severe adolescence.