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Let's Talk

Make Effective Feedback Your Superpower

By Therese Huston
13-minute read
Audio available
Let's Talk by Therese Huston

Let’s Talk: Make Effective Feedback Your Superpower (2021) is a guide to handling one of the trickiest parts of being a manager – giving feedback. Dr. Therese Huston draws upon her cognitive psychology research and her experience as an educator and consultant to help you understand how to give feedback in a way that benefits everyone involved.

  • Managers
  • Anyone interested in effective communication
  • Bearers of bad news

Dr. Therese Huston received her MS and PhD in cognitive psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. Huston was the founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Seattle University. She has written for the New York Times and the Harvard Business Review and has previously given talks at Microsoft, Amazon, TEDxStLouis, and Harvard Business School. Huston is the author of Teaching What You Don't Know and How Women Decide.

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Let's Talk

Make Effective Feedback Your Superpower

By Therese Huston
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Let's Talk by Therese Huston
Synopsis

Let’s Talk: Make Effective Feedback Your Superpower (2021) is a guide to handling one of the trickiest parts of being a manager – giving feedback. Dr. Therese Huston draws upon her cognitive psychology research and her experience as an educator and consultant to help you understand how to give feedback in a way that benefits everyone involved.

Key idea 1 of 8

To give effective feedback, think about whether your employee needs appreciation, coaching, or evaluation.

The first step to understanding how to give effective feedback is to know exactly what kind of a conversation you need to have. After all, you can’t know if a conversation went well if you don’t know what you were trying to accomplish, right? 

Since most people aren’t taught effective feedback skills, they might think that there are only two types of feedback: positive or negative. But that’s not a useful framing – in reality, different situations call for different types of positive or negative feedback. Instead, you should think of all feedback as being either appreciation, coaching, or evaluation.

The key message of this blink is: To give effective feedback, think about whether your employee needs appreciation, coaching, or evaluation.

Appreciation is the most straightforward kind of feedback – it’s positive recognition. Did an employee lead a great presentation this morning? Tell them that! That’s appreciation. 

To make appreciation most effective, it should be delivered immediately after the event, when it’s still fresh in the memories of you and your employee. This will help reinforce the behavior, and the praise will be most significant in that moment. Appreciation is also especially critical for building relationships. At a deeper level, it’s really about telling others that they’re valued. For this reason, appreciation is particularly important for new employees, or employees doing a task for the first time. It’s a great way to make them feel at home. 

Now for coaching, the second of our three types of feedback. Coaching is advice designed to help the other person learn and grow. Maybe an employee led a presentation that was pretty good overall, but when it came time to answer follow-up questions he struggled to explain things clearly. Good coaching would explain where the employee struggled, and give him advice on how to avoid it next time. Coaching doesn’t have to be in-depth: sometimes just checking in with a quick bit of advice can work wonders.

And what about our final type of feedback, evaluation? Evaluation lets the other person know where they stand. When you tell an employee that her sales numbers are third on their team, that’s evaluation. This is where you can let your employee know if she’s meeting expectations or likely to receive that promotion she’s been hoping for. 

One important note – make sure you’re clear to distinguish coaching from evaluation. When an employee wants coaching but gets an evaluation, or when they think an evaluation is just friendly advice, the result is confusion on both sides. And this can lead to considerable damage.

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