How to give actionable feedback especially when you’re not in the same room

by | Feb 16, 2021

Working on new projects, with a bigger team, online, can be extremely exciting and satisfying if the goals and perspectives are aligned and if the communication process runs smoothly. One of the main aspects that makes this process efficient by saving time, energy and resources is the way we give and receive feedback.

The main purpose when giving feedback should be that of obtaining easily the desired results, by using an empathetic, clear and relevant way of presenting our ideas.

But this is not always easy and some companies face real struggles. According to a study created by OfficeVibe, 17% of employees feel that the feedback they get is not specific, while 83% of millennials say the feedback they receive from managers is not meaningful.

And we think the same problems emerge not only between managers and employees, but also between colleagues or, to give a more specific example, between marketers and designers.

As we are dedicated to helping people improve their communication within their teams, we will tackle today the way we could improve our feedback giving process in order to make it more actionable. This is also the most important pillar of our brand new solution, Brunch, that we are happy to bring it to you.

What makes feedback actionable?


1. Be as specific as possible

One of the main issues with giving feedback is not tackling one problem at a time and giving too vague feedback. Name exactly what you don’t like or that could be improved and give examples on how you would see it.

As a first step, be specific about the process – define the common goal, the steps, the pain points and what should be taken into consideration and other elements that could help others avoid misinterpretations. Creating a specific brief is the first step of running a fruitful project or partnership.

Moving on, when giving feedback on someone’s work, avoid too general terms that don’t express clearly your thoughts. I.e., saying about a website content’s that you simply don’t “feel it” or that it isn’t “brand-aligned” doesn’t help very much. Instead, try to highlight those sentences that don’t actually make sense to you, give an example on how you would see them, give references to a certain page from your brand book, talk about what they should transmit or show how others did it and you liked it.


2. Be empathetic

Always keep in mind that you are giving feedback to a coworker, colleague, partner, to another human being that put effort into creating a material you requested. While it is perfectly ok to ask for improvements, make sure you are giving feedback on the work they performed and not on them as people. Use expressions such as “This button should transmit a more clear call-to-action” or “This piece of content is interesting, but it could be improved by using these guidelines from our brand book”.

Also, keep in mind that constructive criticism can work wonders, but it is vital to choose your context. Give your feedback in more private environments, directly, and not withing all company meetings. What you want is to start a conversation, to show consideration and to work together with people with different skills towards a specific goal.


3. Use clear, to the point terms and indications

Using terms that are clear and relevant to the people you are talking to is still a sign of empathy and actually good leadership. Avoid jargon, do not use terms that are characteristic to your work and that others are not familiarized with. Your main goal is to obtain a certain result so try to help others understand fast what you mean and not confuse them with complicated terms.

Also, use straightforward indication and be realistic. Show exactly what you would like to be modified, which button should be of another colour or which style should be changed and ask for things that can actually be done. Good news is that you can do all of these with Brunch.


4. Be open to other ideas and show your willingness to help

If your goal is to create a performant work environment, to nurture relationships and foster creativity and innovation, you have to be open to other ideas. A designer could come with the proposal you haven’t thought about as a marketeer and vice versa. Embracing different points of view with an open mind and filtering them based on some established criteria (which are strongly connected to the goal of the project) will only drive improvements.

Don’t skip the part where you show your willingness to get involved and help others. While clearly and empathetically stating your point of view and requirements, make sure to show your availability to share knowledge or resources.


5. Recognize efforts

Actionable feedback becomes actionable also if it encourages people to act on it. By being aware of their efforts and skills, you can motivate them and show your confidence that they can reach amazing results. 

There are various “rules” (like the sandwich approach) of combining good and negative feedback, but that should be treated with caution. When you combine different types of feedback, instead of making it clear, you risk making it confusing. Roger Schwarz (organizational psychologist, speaker, leadership team consultant) recommends a more transparent and mutual learning approach. Too often we forget to notice the good parts of what people are doing. Be honest and focus on observing positive behaviors.


Try to improve something

When giving feedback, ask yourself: what is there that could be improved? How can I make everything more clear, more brand-aligned, more creative etc.? Try to focus on the actual goals of your project and not that much on your personal feeling. And start from there.

Don’t just give feedback for the sake of it, but do it with a certain goal in mind. Choose a constructive approach, go for the statements that foster growth and development. At the same time, remember that perfect is the enemy of the good, so know when to draw a line and appreciate what you have obtained.

I hope these tips will help you work better with your colleagues, teams or collaborators. We doing our best to contribute to a better work environment through our solution, Brunch. We are open to receiving any feedback you might have on this app!

Andrei Stoica

Andrei Stoica

Co-Founder & CEO @Brunch

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