Giving feedback is a great way to add value to your organization and build your personal brand. But when you don’t have the formal title of “boss,” it’s easy to be perceived as overly critical.
Even if you are a formal leader, with direct reports, you’ve likely recognized that feedback can be a tricky dance. We don’t want to give too much, because we want people to have autonomy and own their role. We don’t want to give too little, because we want people to feel supported and guided.
So, when should you give feedback? The answer is less often than you think. You don’t need to give feedback on everything. Instead, you need to give feedback on things that matter.
These high-priority moments typically fall into one of two buckets:
First, give feedback when you’re asked. People with deep subject matter expertise, a lot of experience, or people who are natural leaders are often asked for feedback because, well, they give great feedback. If someone asks you for feedback, take it as a compliment and help them if you can.
Second, consider giving feedback on high-stakes things, even if you aren’t asked. Give feedback on things like product launches, big customer proposals, or other initiatives that could really impact your team or organization if not done well. Be careful, you don’t need to endlessly point out the mistakes of your colleagues. But if you do know one or two things that could help, it’s of service to everyone if you let them know kindly.
Here are three tips for giving feedback (even when you aren’t the boss):