The Power of Observational Feedback

By Linda Miller, MCC

When you think about giving feedback, what’s your first response?  Mine is, “Do I HAVE to??”  Making observational feedback can help. Observational feedback is information that’s shared without a request for change. It’s just an observation. For example, “You seemed quieter than usual in the meeting this morning. Hope everything is ok.”  Or, “Your energy level is different, and it looks like you’re enjoying the new project.”Monkeys

Observational feedback gives information that may not be otherwise recognized by the person receiving it.  It can confirm something that’s going on or point out something new. The best observational feedback is non-judgmental and timely. It’s a data point.  Our hypothesis is that if we increase the positive and observational feedback, it will decrease the need for feedback asking for a behavior request or change.

Last week, I had the privilege of working with some very talented managers.  During one of the sessions, we asked the managers to give each other observational feedback. Here’s a response from one of the participants: “When we were giving observational feedback to each other, someone gave me some feedback that I always knew but finally heard.  I can’t wait to start applying everything that I have learned.”  That’s the power of observational feedback.  Try it. Notice what happens.

4 thoughts on “The Power of Observational Feedback

  1. Veri nice article, clear and simple to understand. Would you mind if I translate it to spanish in a spanish blog about coaching (including a reference to this original article)?

  2. Linda,
    this is an interesting take on feedback. So often, managers are required to give feedback AND request a change in behavior, but instead either focus soley on needed behavior change, and forget the simple observation or provide the observations, but forget to ask for the change! the concept of simply noticing something and saying something is elemental to coaching. Can’t tell you how often I am on the phone wiht someone who when asked says “I’m fine” when clearly they are not. The observation in that moment often leads to a much more meaningful conversation.

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