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Giving and receiving feedback within internal audit

Guest blog by Louise Fleming, Aretai LLP | 20 April 2017

This is the third in Louise Fleming's series of three blogs focused on feedback in internal audit.

Recognise the importance of feedback

Performance management is changing in many organisations. Annual appraisals are being replaced (or at least supplemented) with online and real-time feedback. There is a long overdue push for people to share information in the here and now rather than storing it up for a formal performance review meeting. 

Internal auditors are generally comfortable giving feedback on the technical aspects of their role, but can be less confident about giving and receiving feedback on their interpersonal effectiveness. Yet it is these skills that equip us with the impact and influence to succeed in our relationships with stakeholders and it is these skills that make the difference as our careers progress.

TIP #1: Be clear WHY feedback is important

In many ways feedback is now more present in our lives than ever before. We read online reviews when deciding what to buy or where to stay. In our personal lives we think feedback is a good thing, but at work we tend to avoid giving feedback at all costs. Perhaps we have a fear that interpersonal feedback will not be well received or that in reverse we will be told something we do not wish to hear.

We need to recognise feedback is a gift - it helps us change, develop and grow. 

TIP #2: Ensure feedback is CONSTRUCTIVE not evaluative

So 'What' are we supposed to feedback? The key here is to be constructive, not evaluative. Not ‘you are aggressive’ but ‘I felt you responded to his challenge quite aggressively, perhaps next time you could take time to reflect before responding’.

To ensure your feedback is constructive, check it addresses these three elements:

  • Observe: explain what you have observed in a fact-based way
  • Impact: talk tentatively to avoid a defensive reaction, but own the message
  • Different: rather than 'telling' someone what to do differently next time, try asking what the person receiving the feedback thinks

TIP #3: Follow the 4Ps to deliver feedback

Finally, ‘How’ should we deliver feedback? After every stakeholder meeting or interaction, get into the routine of sharing feedback within your internal audit colleagues. Keep the feedback brief and follow the 4Ps:

1. Permission

Seek permission to share feedback in a way that recognises shared purpose: Would it be helpful for me to share some feedback with you?

2. Positive

Always start with something positive. We are not talking about the ill-advised feedback ‘sandwich’, we are talking about reinforcing strengths.  What did you observe that was good? What was the impact of this? How can this strength be leveraged?  

3. Performance improvement

Identify what your internal audit colleague might do to improve their performance next time. Follow the Observe-Impact-Different triad to ensure your feedback is constructive, but also take care in how you deliver the feedback (be aware of your non-verbal communication and where and when you are delivering the feedback)

4. Playback

Ask the question: What have you heard? This is particularly important when sharing feedback with a colleague who you know will focus on the development points as ‘negatives’ and hardly hear a word of the positive feedback. Remember, we need to build on our strengths to be successful.

In summary

Invest time and energy to share interpersonal feedback with your colleagues: 

  • give and receive feedback recognising it is a gift to help you develop; and
  • work hard to ensure the feedback you share is constructive and delivered effectively. 
Content reviewed: 1 February 2023