Timing of Feedback: Immediate Means Impactful

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Radical Candor" by Kim Scott. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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When is the best time to offer praise or criticism? Why is the timing of feedback important?

The timing of feedback given can drastically affect how impactful it is in future improvements. Radical Candor is all about providing direct and useful guidance without losing your empathy.

Keep reading to understand how the timing of feedback is an essential part of a culture of radical candor.

Ideal Timing of Feedback

Feedback is most effective when it comes immediately on the heels of a situation that merits attention. Saving up feedback for meetings is unhelpful, for several reasons. First, you risk forgetting exactly what you wanted to talk about, or the specifics of a situation—your employee will become frustrated when you give criticism, but can’t think of any examples to illustrate your point. Second, when you wait to give feedback, you’ll often find that problems are too far in the past to be fixed, or successes are too far in the past to be built on. Your job is to offer constant feedback, and your big meetings—such as yearly performance reviews or one-on-one time—should just be formalized echoes of your regular work. 

Immediate feedback is especially important when it comes to criticism. Putting off criticism—and subsequently, worrying about it—is mentally exhausting. Additionally, if you hold onto things that anger or frustrate you about an employee for too long, you risk suddenly losing your temper with them, diminishing your credibility and destroying the trust you’ve built. 

Consistent feedback also lets the people working for you understand and contextualize how their work is being received or used. Without the context that comes with praise or criticism, people feel that their work goes unnoticed or unappreciated and become disengaged and bored with their work. If their work is being used by someone other than you, try to include them in the meetings or events where their work will be presented, so they can experience the reactions in real time. 

To ensure that the timing of your feedback is as immediate as possible, always try to deliver it in the few minutes between meetings or following a presentation. This saves you both time, as there’s no long meeting to schedule, and the feedback is more effective because you both have the specific points of praise or criticism fresh in your memory. Make sure your schedule allows for post-meeting feedback by stopping meetings 5 minutes before schedule, or by scheduling meetings a minimum of 15 minutes apart. Good feedback doesn’t need to take a long time—the best feedback is consistent and specific. 

There are two situations in which you should second-guess the need for immediacy. First, if you or the other person is angry, tired, or hungry (in short, cranky), wait and deliver criticism when you’re both in a better mindset. Second, if your criticism isn’t important or feels nitpicky, don’t say it right away. Take some time to consider if it even needs to be said at all. 

Timing of Feedback: Immediate Means Impactful

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Kim Scott's "Radical Candor" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Radical Candor summary:

  • How you have to be direct with people while also caring sincerely for them
  • Why relationships are an essential part of successful leadership
  • How to create a strong team culture that delivers better results

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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