A key part of any Toastmaster meeting is the opportunity to evaluate speeches and roles. Evaluations allow you to give people constructive feedback. Frequent, quality feedback ensures improvement, which is what many come to Toastmasters to achieve.

Here is a summary of a recent webinar given by the Neuroleadership Institute on the science behind how the brain likes to receive feedback. It may help you make your evaluations even more effective, not just in meetings, but in other areas of your life too.

Why Give Effective Evaluations?

  • It is an essential leadership skill for you to develop.
  • People improve more and faster with regular feedback.
  • Greater improvement comes from frequent, targeted input from many sources.
  • If done incorrectly, it achieves nothing or makes matters worse.
  • Poor evaluation can be discounted and ignored by the receiver.

What is Feedback?

  • Conversations that provide insights and help people improve by facilitating positive change.
  • Feedback (positive or negative) is information about past behaviour and results, in order to raise awareness and create choices for development.
  • Feedback should be based on facts and backed up with evidence and examples.
  • Feedback is NOT criticism. Criticism, by its nature, causes a threat, which reduces the brain’s capacity to accept it.

Myths about Feedback

  • We think people hate getting feedback. Research shows people actually WANT feedback. What people don’t like is unsolicited feedback or criticism. At a Toastmaster meeting, members know they are going to be evaluated, so it is rarely unsolicited. If you feel you have to give unsolicited feedback, ask their permission first. This will help reduce the threat.
  • Feedback should focus on problems – what people are doing wrong. Yes it can outline errors, but we can over focus on this. People need to know what they are doing right too.
  • Experienced members know more and should be the ones to give feedback. Members come from all aspects of life and work. They can be experienced in what they want or don’t want to hear. Learning to evaluate is part of their development too.
  • We have to only GIVE feedback. No, why not start ASKING for feedback? Toastmaster meetings should be a culture where people feel empowered and confident to ask for it, even if it is something not ‘officially’ being evaluated.

How to Give Brain – Friendly Feedback

  • Focus on what they need to build on (strengths) and then what they need to refocus on (recommendations to improve). Think about the words you use. Compare ‘How I think your speech could be even better is …’ to ‘what you did wrong was..’.
  • Use mental contrasting. The brain loves this. Get them to see where they are now and where they can get to in the future.
  • Help activate visual networks and picture what you are saying.
  • Minimise the ‘noise’ in their brain by creating a safe environment and reducing any threat.
  • Simplify the information. Don’t focus on too many aspects at once.
  • Wrap your feedback in a SCARF.
    • Status – help the person feel valued and good about themselves. Focus on what they can build on.
    • Certainty – make it clear at the start what you will give feedback on; what the focus is.
    • Autonomy – Speak to them before the meeting and find out what they want feedback on. Get them to think about choices in how they can improve.
    • Relatedness – build rapport and trust with this person. Offer to mentor or support to help build a confident mindset.
    • Fairness – Be objective, fair and consistent in your approach. Keep it factual rather than personal.

How to Ask for Feedback

  • Create a culture which allows people to feel safe to ask for feedback.
  • Be explicit and specific. Be very clear exactly what you want feedback on. Compare ‘How was my presentation?’ to ‘Please give me some feedback on the structure of my speech – was there a clear start, middle and end for you?’
  • Ask broadly. Ask a variety of people who can give you different perspectives; not just your asigned evaluator. You can ask for a more in-depth evaluation than the meeting may allow.
  • Ask often so it becomes a habit. Timing the request close to when you ‘performed’ will give you a more accurate evaluation. Our memories fade and distort with time.
  • Negative or positive feedback is a gift. It offers an opportunity for you to improve. Either way, avoid discounting it. An example would be if someone praised your speech and your response is ‘Oh it wasn’t that good, I hardly did any preparation’.
  • Remember to thank the person for it. Accept feedback graciously with no repercussions.

Effective evaluations are an important part of Toastmaster meetings. They provide an opportunity to hone a key leadership skill of giving constructive feedback. Why not sign up now to be an evaluator at the next meeting?

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