How to Give Constructive Feedback – 7 Tips and Tricks

Unfortunately, in many companies the annual evaluation is the only time when employees receive in depth feedback on their work. Why is that? It is usually because we find uncomfortable to give feedback and managers and employees alike dread that moment, when the employees receive a year’s worth “constructive criticism” being thrown at them. 

Why is this not a good feedback giving method? Because, feedback is much more effective if given right after the moment the issue for negative or positive feedback arises. Feedback should be timely. If given a year later, no one will remember the exact situation or the issue anymore. When done in the right way, feedback is what will catapult your employees into greatness. But for the feedback to be heard and to have its effect, it has to be given carefully and frequently. Not only in cases, in which improvement is necessary, but also to the best performers which are usually the ones receiving the least feedback.

Giving constructive feedback is a skill that can be learned, just like everything else.

Here are some tips that I gathered and that I practice in my daily work and I hope you find them useful.

1. Strive for a Trustful Relationship with your Team Members

Think of a time when you yourself enjoyed receiving feedback from somebody. Who was that person? What was the relationship you had with this person? It most probably was a person you trusted and who cared about you. Therefore, first of all, you as a manager or team leader should always try to build a close relationship with your team member, based on mutual trust. This is how you will come across as trustworthy, caring and credible and your team members will be more receptive to your feedback in the first place.

2. Try to Make it a Positive Experience for both Sides

As I mentioned before, giving feedback can be stressful. In order to make it more pleasant, think about the intention. Think about why you are giving feedback and how you intend to do it. Is it to help your team member to grow, improve and perform better? Can you deliver feedback and get the point across with genuine empathy for the other person’s perspective? Your role as a manager is to give feedback, not giving it, would be irresponsible. Giving feedback can sometimes be painful, but at the end it is a gift you will give to your employee. To know if you are ready to give feedback, go through the checklist, created by BrenĂ©e Brown, the author of “Daring Greatly”: Engaged Feedback Checklist.

3. Be Positive

A way to start is to start off with something positive. It helps people see what they are doing right and they will keep on doing it. Another reason for giving more of authentic appreciation is that our minds remember negative feedback much longer and stronger than positive feedback. We react to positive feedback like “Teflon coating” and to negative one like “Velcro”. If we give authentic appreciation often, your team members will sense that you appreciate their effort and that you understand the nature and complexity of their work. That will lead to trust and it will make them more at ease when receiving your feedback.

4. Describe a Behavior, not a Personal Trait

One thing is to give feedback on somebody’s behavior, another thing is to talk about their personal traits. The magic formula experts recommend is called SBI. It stands for S - Situation, B - Behavior and I - Impact. It holds true for negative and positive feedback. If we describe the situation in which a certain behavior occurred and the impact it had, it will stick much longer. Ask if the person agrees the description of the situation fairly depicts what happened.

5. Be Timely and Regular

It is very easy to postpone feedback until the yearly evaluation or a1-1 meeting. But then it might be too late, nobody will remember anymore what the situation was and feedback will not have the same effect.

6. Be Specific and Fair

Talk about only specific behavior and only about what you know first-hand. Avoid feedback “triangles” meaning using information you get about somebody from somebody else. Remember, in this case you don’t have the full story, what you have is mere “hearsay”. Your team member can get upset if she/he finds out that they were not approached directly with the issue and you might lose their trust. You will also want to be fair with delivering feedback, pay attention and make sure that you give each person on your team the same quality feedback and that you use consistent criteria for it. Do not act on your assumptions about people and make sure it all makes sense to your direct report.

7. How to Make Feedback Actionable?

OK, so you have given feedback to you team member and you want him/her to act on it. You want to make clear that your expectations are clear and that you both agree on the next steps. You can even suggest specific steps or use the GROW model to motivate people for the change you want to achieve in them. GROW (G – Goal, R – Reality, O – Obstacles/Options, W- Will). And do not forget to follow up on them!

And remember: giving timely and regular feedback and genuine appreciation is essential for you teams’ growth! It is the feedback and the appreciation given at the right moment in the right manner that will help your employees on their way to excellence!

3 Key Ideas for Success in Business - From Peter Thiel's Zero to One Book

Peter Thiel is an American entrepreneur venture capitalists and hedge fund manager. He co-founded paypal with Max Levchin and Elon Musk. He is ranked fourth on the Forbes list 2014 at 2.2 billion dollars.
Disclaimer: This post contains an adapted version of the transcript from this video, where Peter Thiel presents his book Zero to One.

1. Don't Copy Successful Entrepreneurs

Every moment in the history of business, every moment the history of Technology happens only once. The next Mark Zuckerberg will not be building a social networking site. The next Larry Page will not be building a search engine. The next Bill Gates will not be building an operating system company. If you're copying these people, in some sense you're not learning from them. And this is why there is no science to business. Science starts with things that are repeatable and experimentally verifiable in one way or another. But every great company is one-of-a-kind.

So, how will the next one-of-a-kind company start?

Tell me something that's true that nobody agrees with you on. 

These are often quite hard questions to answer because it often requires courage to go against conventional wisdom. But those are the very questions we have to ask ourselves if we want to be successful entrepreneurs. It's not about directly copying Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page or Bill Gates. It's about copying the way of thinking that lead them to discovering a unique truth that nobody saw.

2. Aim for Monopoly

If you are a founder or an entrepreneur what you want to aim for is monopoly. You want to aim to
build a company that is one-of-a-kind, and that's so far differentiated from the competition that it's not even competing with them. This goes against the conventional wisdom that claims that capitalism and competition are somehow synonyms.

A capitalist is someone who is in the business of accumulating capital. A world of perfect competition is a world where profit is being shared among competitors, which is a nightmare for a capitalist.

If you want to compete like crazy you should just open a restaurant in Chicago. But think about Google. It has had no serious competition in search since 2002 when it definitively distanced itself from Yahoo and Microsoft. As a result of this it has been generating enormous cash flows for the last 12 years.

The people who have monopolies don't talk about it. They pretend not to have monopolies for obvious reasons. And the people who don't have monopolies and pretend to have something unique about their business is because otherwise nobody would invest or give them any money.

Therefore, if you have a monopoly like Google you will pretend that you are in a much larger market so you'll never talk about the search business and say:

We have a sixty-six percent share of the search market and we're much more dominant than Microsoft ever was with the operating system market in the nineteen nineties

You will instead say:

We are a technology company and since technology is such a vast space we're competing with apple on iPhones, we're competing with facebook on social, and since we're going to build a self-driving cars we're competing with all the car companies in Detroit.

Conversely, if you were to start a restaurant and you talked to various investors you may want to try an idiosyncratic story that says that yours is a one-of-a-kind restaurant, completely unique and very different from all the others. It's the only British-Nepalese fusion cuisine in downtown Chicago.

3. Competition is for Losers 

We always think that the losers are the people who can't compete effectively enough. The losers are the people who are slow on the swim team in high school. The losers are the people whose grades or test scores aren't quite good enough to get into the right universities.

So, the idea that somehow competition itself is something that we are perversely attracted to is very counter-intuitive.

Competition is always this very-to-edge thing. When you compete ferociously you will get better at that which you are competing on, but you will always narrow your focus to beating the people around
you. And that often comes at this very high price of losing sight of what is more important, or perhaps more valuable.

Continuously looking for opportunities to compete, is not just this intellectual failure, it's also this thing where you have a tiny door where everyone's trying to rush through, and then maybe around the
corner there is a secret gate that no one's taking. You should always find the secret path and then go ahead and take the price.

Should I Share my Startup Idea with People?

  1. When should an entrepreneur share her startup idea? 
  2. how much of it? 
  3. with whom?
The short answers to these questions are:
  1. You should share your startup idea as soon as possible
  2. You should PROBABLY share ALL of it (Read more to find why I only said PROBABLY)
  3. You should share it with as many people as possible. 

When Should you Share your Idea?

The main reason for sharing it as soon as possible is that success mostly depends on execution, not on the quality of the idea. High tech investors are very aware of this fact. That's why they give so much importance to the founder team, since it's the best predictor that they have to tell whether the team will be able to execute the idea well or not. 

So, basically on one hand you have nothing to loose by telling the idea to other people. On the other hand, you have a lot to win, since your idea will evolve and get richer as you share it with people and listen to their feedback. 

How Much of your Idea Should you Share with Other People?

In most cases, the more you share the better. However, in some cases it's not a good idea to share all of it, since by doing so you would be losing crucial competitive advantage. 

The way to know if there is some part of your idea that you should keep to yourself depends on the Market Type you're in.

If you are in an Existing Market (e.g., selling smartphones, or music on demand like Spotify) you should be much more careful than if you are in a New Market (e.g., like Twitter was). 

Existing Market

In an existing market competition is your biggest problem. And companies compete in things such as price, quality, features (e.g., memory capacity in smartphones) and performance (e.g., number of cores in smartphones). If your idea (or part of it) will enable you to improve in any of these variables compared to your competitors, you should definitely either patent it or keep it as a secret.

In order for an idea to be eligible for a patent it has to meet three requirements:
  1. It must be new. That means, it hasn't been published anywhere, including the web. If the patent examiner finds your idea presented or explained somewhere (e.g., in a slideshow, in a webpage, in a Q&A forum) most likely you won't be able to patent it.
  2. It must be non-obvious. This requirement is to eliminate trivial patents. Your idea (e.g., a new computer architecture) should not be obvious to the experts in the corresponding domain (computer architects).
  3. It must have a clear industrial application. This requirement is to rule out abstract inventions that have no clear practical application.  
The fact that an idea can be patented does not mean that it should be patented. This is a very important distinction. When you patent an idea it is because you want to prevent others from using it, or to get money each time they use it (through royalties). But this cannot be done if it's hard for you to determine if someone is using your idea or not. 

For instance, assume that your idea is an algorithm that will be executed in the front-end of an Internet application, for instance, in javascript. Then it will be possible for you to prove in court that a competitor is using your algorithm and demand the payment of royalties because you can see the competitor's javascript code. 

However, if your idea is an algorithm that will be executed in the back-end of an Internet application, say behind an API, it will be very difficult for you to prove that a competitor is using your algorithm because you cannot see his back-end code. 

In this second case you may want to treat your algorithm as a trade secret, that is, as something you know and chose not to reveal to your competitors. For instance, many aspects of Google's Page Rank algorithm are kept as trade secrets.

Even if you don't share the most critical parts of your idea, you can still obtain valuable feedback from sharing the rest of it with other people. For instance, imagine that you've found a way to double the speed of a hard drive. You can share your whole business model (your plans on how to enter the market, who to target, distribution channels, pricing strategy, potential partners, etc.) with people in order to get valuable feedback without telling them how you managed to double the hard drive speed. 

New Market 

If you are in a New Market competition is the least of your problems. Your main challenge is to find a market with people that have the problem that you want to solve and who consider this problem to be very important. In this situation, the more you talk about your idea the better, because it will help you validate the existence of this hypothetical market.

As much as you love your idea, ideas are cheap, and every entrepreneur (i.e., a potential competitor) has many more promising ideas in her head than time to actually implement them. They will see your idea as your thing, not theirs. If they are nice, they will try to help you with feedback. So, relax and share your idea; it's all about the execution.

With Whom Should I Share my Idea?

With as many people as possible. More specifically:
  1. Share it with your family (e.g., your mother) to find insight about usability and to simplify how you explain your business model 
  2. Share it with potential customers to look for early signs that point out that you're solving a problem that they have, and a problem that they consider to be very important
  3. Share it with developers to get an idea about how much time it will take to implement the idea, and to know if it's feasible or not
  4. Share it with business people to identify weak spots in your business model and to learn from mistakes they've made that may be relevant to your business
  5. Share it with other entrepreneurs to get their opinion on what they think your MVP (minimum viable product) should look like


Share your whole startup idea as soon as possible, with as many people as possible, unless you are entering an existing market. In that case share only those parts of the idea that are not critical.