The need of feedback

We all have needs. Basic needs and more complex ones.

One of such basic needs, which is often unrecognized by others, is the need of receiving feedback. We want to know how we are doing, how we are perceived, how we perform, where we are against norms or expectations, what are our chances of promotion, etc…

We basically want to know our reference point.

Without feedback we feel completely lost. There is simply no way to measure progress as our internal compass cannot be calibrated. We miss the ground under the feet and we feel as if suspended in space.

And this lack of feedback produces a very disturbing feeling of dissatisfaction and not-belonging, which is often unrecognized by others. If this continues, a deep frustration will likely develop over time. Unfortunately, this is a common situation in many corporations and work places.

Think about it.

  • How happy are you at your work place?
  • How clear are your tasks and responsibilities?
  • How do you communicate with your manager? And with your boss?
  • Do you receive feedback?
  • How encouraging is the feedback you receive?
  • How much is your work appreciated by others?
  • How much and how often do you express your appreciation for the work done well?
  • How often do you thank others for help?

Traditional feedback

Straightforward criticism is perhaps the most widely used approach. Another very common technique for providing feedback is what my friend calls a hot-dog approach. This means, Roll – Sausage – Roll, translating into the positive message – negative comment – positive message. You start by focusing on what is good (Roll), then you discuss the real issue (Sausage) and you end up with a positive note (Roll).

While this strategy is much better than a plain negative feedback, it is not enough.


Because although the focus is on the positive side, many people still have the tendency to hear the negative comment only. And this is not surprising.

We are often self critical, dependent on the opinions of others and trained to constantly subscribe to our negative self-talk. As a result, a single negative comment, even a mild one, pointing to an improvement, may overshadow the multiple positive ones.

How to give a perfect feedback

Feedback is usually given externally. There is however a very different, wonderful technique I learned years ago. I practice it regularly and I experience great results every time I use it.

The main difference is that the feedback-giver becomes more passive than in other approaches. He/she takes the role of a facilitator. The person who receives feedback becomes active and, yes, it makes all the difference.

The feedback-giver focusses first on the positive aspects only (it is the zero step). There is nothing more. Positive aspects. Then, he/she supports the other person in the process of discovering own feedback. The facilitator asks feedback-receiver for answering the following questions:

  1. What is exactly the task / step / journey goal to be reviewed? (Get crystal clear here!)
  2. What is an ideal successful performance (achievement) in this case? Please describe it in detail.
  3. What did go well?
  4. What could have worked better?
  5. What have your learnt from a) this process and b) the above observations?
  6. What will you do differently next time? What is the single step you can take to improve the most?

The beauty of the process above is that the feedback-receiver is encouraged to produce this feedback for himself. If the questions are asked in rapport, the person will easily understand what to look at, what has worked well and how to improve.

The focus is on the positive aspects with the call for action. It works wonders.

If you lack feedback in your life or when you need a review of progress of any project, use the questions above. You can become your own facilitator. Learn how to give feedback to yourself and others.

Give it a go!


Photo courtesy Robert Hodgin, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.



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