5 Ways to Give Feedback - Principal Tribe

PRINCIPAL PERSPECTIVES

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 -  Todd Schmidt  - 

Our featured principal this week is the principal and a lead innovator @harborviewelem. Proud husband and father to two beautiful girls. He earned his Ed.D at USC and serves as faculty @ChapmanU.

 Five Ways to Give Feedback

Principal Perspectives #11, March 25, 2019

In this Principal Perspectives, we highlight the ideas of principal and lead innovator Dr. Todd Schmidt.

You will discover 5 ways to give feedback that actually results in a stronger school culture and increased professional learning.


Leadership is a journey. We don’t wake up one morning and all of a sudden become a phenomenal leader. It happens slowly, day in and day out through awareness of ourselves, the people around us and recognizing opportunities for growth.

As school leaders, one of these opportunities appears in the form of providing feedback.

Whether it be to students or staff, there is usually a window that opens enabling us to tell people how well they are doing and/or guide them into doing something in a better way. The leadership opportunity for us isn’t really in the task itself, it is in how we deliver the message.

That is what defines us a leader. 

Becoming a leader happens slowly, day in and day out through awareness of ourselves, the people around us and recognizing opportunities for growth

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Providing feedback to people on how they are doing is a wonderful way to encourage someone to evolve into the best version of themselves. The trap that appears however, is whether we are providing criticism or constructive feedback.

The problem with criticism is that it leans towards passing judgement on something or focusing on the negative, which defeats the whole purpose of what we are trying to do.

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The moment judgement and negativity enter into the room people start becoming defensive, retreat within themselves and do not engage.

With constructive feedback the opposite happens. Instead of defense, the person receiving the feedback:

  • opens up,
  • sees the opportunity for growth
  • participates in finding a solution.

We can still point out actions that took place that were not ideal, but the focus is on how to change them and find a solution rather than focusing on what was done “wrong”.

Here are 5 ways that you can shift away from falling into the trap of criticism and providing constructive feedback instead.

1) Describe Instead of Judge

The Principal Perspective

To me, criticism is all about finding fault...feedback is about finding a solution.
 - Dr. Todd Schmidt

When we focus on describing what has occurred rather than judging it, we reduce the need for the other person to respond defensively and help them emotionally detach from the situation.

2) Focus on Actions Instead of the Person

When our feedback focuses on the behavior and actions that took place, the person is removed from the scenario and it becomes neutral.

The goal is to describe actions, not qualities we perceive the person has or doesn’t have. It also enables us to easily transition the conversation towards finding a solution together.

3) Make Face-to-Face a Priority

The Principal Perspective

How do you avoid negativity associated with criticism?

I think one of the big ways is to ensure in-person conversations when criticism or corrective feedback is warranted...when it is delivered via text, email, or even over the phone, the chance of misinterpretation and hurt feelings climbs exponentially!
 - Dr. Todd Schmidt

Sending any feedback via text messages, voice messages or any other way that is not “in person” increases the risk of miscommunication. Providing feedback in person (an informal setting is even better) allows both people to engage in more genuine and meaningful conversation.

4) Be Specific

A vague positive comment will not encourage someone to continue doing their best. It is important to be specific about the actions that were taken to achieve the result so that they can continuing repeating them in the future.

5) Frame Accomplishments

The Principal Perspective

Affirmation is about the value you see in someone else, letting them know you appreciate what they contribute...like with feedback, it needs to be genuine, specific, and action-oriented.
 - Todd Schmidt

Frame accomplishments in light of the bigger picture.

Wherever possible, when describing the actions that lead to an outcome, also frame it in a way so that the person understands how it has impacted the bigger picture. This way they can see their direct impact on the environment and people around them.

Becoming aware of how you provide feedback will not only help you become a better leader, but more importantly become the encouragement someone needs to fulfill their potential and understand that they too can make a difference in the world around them. 

Providing feedback to people is a wonderful way to encourage them to evolve into their best self...The trap that appears is whether we are providing criticism or constructive feedback.

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You can connect with Todd on Twitter @tsschmidty and on his blog tsschmidty.blogspot.com

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Copyright 2019 Principal Tribe. Written by Matt Foster and Chrissie Bettencourt.

About the author

Principal Tribe Editor

Principal Tribe is connecting and amplifying the voices of principals and school leaders. Focusing on school leadership, educational research, and learning.

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