If you want people to improve, be specific when you give them feedback.
The assessment should not be binary; pass or fail, good or bad. The reason is simple. These types of comments don’t give them enough information to do something different next time.
By sharing with them specific observations, you make them aware of what worked well and what needs to be improved.
For example: If somebody has asked you to give him feedback on a presentation he just gave, you can comment on: a) the structure of the speech (beginning, middle, end), b) the clarity of the slides, c) the tone of the delivery, d) the posture of the presenter, e) the level of the eye-contact, f) their engagement with the audience, etc.
In order to be able to provide constructive feedback, observe carefully. Your role is to tell what you noticed. Observations are more factual and non-judgmental.
Ideally, provide feedback as soon as possible after the event. When giving negative feedback though, it might be best to wait until the recipient is ’emotionally’ ready. He/she might be more open to criticism a day later than immediately after the event.
Be direct and avoid giving mixed messages. What we say might be different from what people understand. Be clear and use the word ‘And’ instead of ‘But’.
Also, show you care. When people feel you really want them to improve, they will take your feedback on board (or at least they will carefully consider it).
The bottom line: If you want people to perform better, give them specific feedback on what is working well and what needs to be improved.
Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, coach and speaker. She has worked as senior pharmaceutical executive for 12 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.