Photograph of a cat looking in a mirror and seeing a lion.

Feedback: The Dual Art of Guiding Others and Reflecting Within

Feedback is the sixth key in this seven-part series on Self-reflection. Feedback is a powerful tool in the realm of personal and professional growth. It not only shapes our interactions with others but also our inner dialogue. Learning how to give and receive feedback is crucial for leaders and entrepreneurs who want to promote growth and positive change.

Before considering the “how to” it’s important to be clear about the “Why we give feedback.”

If we keep the right intention in mind, our feedback is likely to be constructive. i.e. Whenever I give feedback I ask myself, “How will this help the recipient improve and to grow?” I believe this to be the crucial stance when giving feedback.

To Others: The Constructive Approach

When offering feedback to others, it’s crucial to be both honest and compassionate. Harvard Business Review dismisses a “sandwich approach”–starting with a positive, addressing the area for improvement, and ending with a supportive statement delays the inevitable negative feedback. I find this approach ensures the feedback is constructive.

1. Be Specific and Objective: Instead of vague comments like “You need to improve,” pinpoint exact areas. E.g. “Your report is good, but including critical analysis will enhance its impact.”

2. Focus on Behaviour, Not Character: Psychology Today highlights the importance of focusing on actions, not personality traits. “I noticed you missed a couple of deadlines. What happened? Is there something we need to address?” is more constructive than, “You screwed up.”

3. Foster a Growth Mindset: Statements such as, “I can see you’re totally committed. What can we do to support your improvement?” can be transformative.

To Ourselves: The Art of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is an equally vital aspect of feedback. It involves examining our actions, decisions, and their outcomes critically, but without harsh judgment.

1. Keep a Journal: Writing your thoughts, experiences, and feelings will aid clarity and objectivity. Reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and why.

2. Ask Yourself Constructive Questions: Instead of dwelling on failures, ask growth-oriented questions. “What did I learn from this experience?” or “How can I approach this differently next time?”

3. Practice Self-Compassion: I cannot emphasise the importance of self-compassion in personal growth enough. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend.

Balancing Feedback and Reflection

Integrating both external and internal feedback into our lives is a balancing act. While offering guidance to others, remember to apply the same principles to yourself. As a leader or entrepreneur, your growth influences those around you. By mastering the art of feedback and self-reflection, you not only enhance your own development but also inspire and uplift others.

Feedback is not just about improvement—it’s about connection, understanding, and shared growth. Whether you are guiding a team member or introspecting your journey, remember that feedback is a journey, not a destination. It’s a continuous process of learning, adjusting, and thriving both as individuals and as a collective.

Much of this is obvious. The problem is, I see examples of poor feedback everywhere. What advice would you give?