Who Should Give Feedback?

At LearningBridge, we are very big on helping people learn how to receive feedback graciously and act on it visibly. We also recognize that there is great value in learning how to give feedback well; however, in determining how best to give feedback, a key question can be overlooked regarding who should give feedback.

Motivated by TikTok

Teenager Playing the GuitarLet me share an example I have recently seen play out at my home with what can be the most difficult of feedback recipients: a teenager. There’s a reason that so many jokes exist about how teenagers know everything, and most of us can relate just by thinking back about ourselves at that age.

I have a teenage son who started teaching himself how to play the guitar a few months ago. He has picked it up quickly because he already knew how to play the cello. Learning the fingering hasn’t been as difficult as it would be for someone who had no experience with a string instrument. Like many teenagers, he isn’t interested in his parents’ opinions on a lot of topics; however, his mom knows how to play the violin and can play a lot by ear. My son has been recording TikTok videos and is motivated to present his best self. Because of that motivation and his mom’s musical skill, he is very open to her opinion and feedback about the quality of a given recording before he posts. He may not want to listen to his mom’s ideas on all topics, but he does on this one.

Listening to John Denver

This also reminds me of a story a friend told me years ago about his older brother, who was really into grunge and heavy metal music but also loved John Denver—who doesn’t? At the end of a John Denver concert that the brother attended, John Denver asked attendees to do their part in keeping the outdoor venue clean. My friend’s brother was running around, filling his arms with trash, picking up as much as he could because John Denver asked. He was very willing to act, and it was all due to the respect he had for the person making the request. Consider how it would have gone if the concert organizer or a security-type person had made the request instead. Some people would have responded, but the response from my friend’s brother and many others would definitely have been different.

Who Should Give Feedback to Your Employees?

Similarly, in working with your employees, you as a manager don’t have to give all of the feedback and guidance. Consider what might motivate your employee relative to the feedback as well who might be best to give feedback. It may be that the best way you can help is by suggesting or even assisting in making a connection with another person your employee respects and admires to allow that other person to provide feedback. Because of who the feedback is coming from, the feedback will be much more readily accepted.

While we focus a lot on helping individuals be able to receive feedback graciously and act visibly, we also look for ways to improve how the feedback is delivered to increase the likelihood of it being received well. Of course, an important part of the how is not so much how but who. Don’t just ask yourself how the feedback should be given but first consider the person’s motivations and who should give the feedback.