Life seems to be full of “Goldilocks” moments.  You know, the time when whatever is going down is just right.  So, when it comes to giving family members, employees or partners the benefit of your counsel, when does that magic feedback moment actually occur?

Before we talk about the timing, however, let’s mention one or two things about the nature of the feedback.  If it is constructive criticism it may actually have more weight than positive reinforcement.  While positive comments may be good for morale, they do not appear to have much influence on actual performance.  It seems that we pay more attention to criticism than we do to “wonderful, wonderful.

Whether the feedback is positive or negative, timing is another story altogether when it comes to improving performance.  Except in life threatening situations, there needs to be some space between when the event occurs and when the feedback is offered.  Too soon, and there’s a problem.  Too late, and there’s a problem. 

Studies conducted by Todd Thornock, an accounting professor at the University of Texas, demonstrate the problems.   If the feedback occurs too soon, then the learning process is blocked and people do not seem to learn from their mistakes.  If the feedback occurs too late, people find the corrective feedback more confusing than helpful, and performance does not improve.

Within your own priority environments – family, work, etc. – there will be people whom you either need to counsel, or who want to be counseled by you.  The best time to give people feedback is usually when they ask for it.  In most cases, if you offer feedback any sooner, then you are just a meddling busybody with too little to do at best; and you are probably viewed as a micromanager at worst.

Now, if those who need the feedback do not ask for it, then what do you do?  If the outcome is reasonably efficient and close enough to what you wanted to satisfy you, do and say nothing.  The opportunity will present itself again.  If the outcome was terrible, then take enough time to determine what you have learned, and then begin a discussion about what the other person has learned. 

Earlier, I noted that negative feedback actually seems to be better received than positive, at least from a learning perspective.  Even so, take advantage of opportunities to let people know they gave you what you wanted.   You’ll come across as fair and balanced, and that’s not all bad.

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