In the world of leadership, giving feedback is not an option. In fact, those who opt out of giving feedback, are in fact, giving feedback. Silence is feedback, but far from the best feedback possible. One of my favorite examples of effective feedback found in scripture is found in Exodus 18. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, offers some effective feedback for any leader. While most focus on the wisdom Jethro offers, I want to focus on how he approaches Moses with his feedback.
1. Give immediate feedback, don’t delay.
Exodus 18:14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? (NIV)
Jethro saw, and he said – he didn’t waste any time. Offering feedback immediately, while the experience is still fresh, is best for everyone involved. The more time between what you observe and what you address only allows more room for misunderstanding or lack of memory of what exactly happened. Immediate feedback is the best feedback.
2. Critique in private and in person, not in public or by text messaging.
Exodus18:9 Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God. (NIV)
In Exodus 18:9,12 we see that Jethro praised in public. While I cannot guarantee that Jethro’s critique was in private, there is no mention of an audience. While immediate feedback is best, waiting for the right time makes effective feedback all the more powerful. When a leader offers feedback out of sequence and in the wrong situation, it often falls on deaf or defensive ears. Feedback in person and in private has an opportunity to be more effective than quick, public feedback.
3. Offer suggestions for improvement, don’t leave them wondering.
Exodus 18:19-23 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” (NIV)
Jethro offered more than his observations, he offered possible solutions. As we read on, Moses received and implemented Jethro’s advice. As leaders we know that is not always the case, but I believe Moses listened because of Jethro’s approach. Feedback, without instructions for improvement, only leaves the hearer feeling uncertain of how to improve or to fully understand what is expected. Effective feedback offers more than observations and opinions; it offers advice and solutions.
I’ll be writing a post on receiving feedback soon. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you give effective feedback. Comment below.