How to use feedback sessions for self-development – and prepare them properly


Employees in a feedback session at the table
The most important facts about feedback sessions

reading time: ca. 6 minutes

  • To promote a good feedback culture, companies should organise regular and structured meetings between managers and employees. This allows both sides to continuously improve and grow.
  • Good feedback is given constructively and respectfully.
  • To make the most of feedback sessions for personal development, prepare thoroughly and assess yourself. Be open to criticism. And: Follow up in the long term.
  • Regular feedback loops several times a year improve cooperation, promote self-development, and increase motivation.

Feedback sessions are an integral part of working life in modern companies. With good reason: feedback is one of the most important sources of personal development. Both companies and employees benefit from a constructive feedback culture. If you prepare well for the conversation and listen properly, you will learn a lot about yourself – and utilise your own potential even more in the future.

If feedback is given in a meaningful and constructive way, it can spur employees on to top performance. It is therefore important that companies and managers establish a useful feedback culture. With the right strategy and preparation, you can get the most out of the dialogue and use it as a driver for future self-development.

Using feedback sessions in the right way

A feedback session is an HR management tool. In this session, employees and managers get together and give each other feedback on their previous and future work at the company.

This enables them to achieve certain goals:

  • Self-development
  • Performance improvement
  • Exchange of praise and criticism
  • Conflict resolution
  • Planning and looking to the future

In short: feedback is a response to someone's behaviour. It can be positive or negative. Both contribute – in different ways – to personal development.

Positive feedback and praise primarily promote motivation and appreciation.

Negative feedback encourages people to think about mistakes and change their behaviour.

Open and constructive feedback is important to compare self-perception and the perception of others. Also, it helps to continuously improve.

What does constructive feedback look like?

To make sure feedback helps everyone grow together, here are some tips – both for employees and managers:

  • Use "I" messages
  • Argue objectively instead of emotionally
  • Avoid blaming or generalisations
  • Formulate criticism neutrally and non-judgementally
  • Seek ideas for improvement and solutions together
  • Conduct a dialogue instead of a monologue
  • Reflect on yourself and openly express your own wishes

What are the benefits of feedback sessions?

Regular feedback meetings benefit both sides – a classic win-win situation. These are some of the advantages of an open feedback culture in the company:

  • Enabling structured performance reviews
  • Agreeing projects, tasks, and goals together
  • Reflecting on your own role and performance
  • Increasing motivation and promoting strengths
  • Strengthening relationships and loyalty to the company
  • Resolving conflicts together
  • Contributing new ideas and identifying potential for improvement

What is a good feedback culture?

In order to create a healthy feedback culture in the company, conversations must be

  1. regular,
  2. structured in terms of content,
  3. respectful and open.

Regularity is important to address current issues, recognise problems in good time, and align objectives.

At least one fixed date per year should be standard, more frequent meetings are even better. Good times are, for example, at the end of the quarter or half-year, at the end of projects, or when interim targets have been achieved.

A good meeting also covers certain topics.

This includes self-assessment and evaluation of the employee, discussion of current problems and issues, comparison and definition of targets, and agreement on future areas of responsibility.

Respectful and open communication is just as important for the feedback culture. Constructive feedback always takes place in both directions and at eye level. Both parties should be well prepared.

Two employees giving feedback to each other

What happens during a feedback meeting?

A classic feedback meeting usually consists of three sections:

  1. Feedback: How do both parties assess the employee's performance to date? What successes and goals have been achieved? What did not work so well and where is potential for improvement? How satisfied is the employee with their own work, the role in the team, and the behaviour of the manager?
  2. Planning: What tasks and projects are planned for the future? What new goals are set? What changes should be implemented?
  3. Perspective: How do both parties imagine the future collaboration? What are their professional and personal wishes? What opportunities for further training or career development can be considered?

Finally, the most important results should be summarised and documented. It also makes sense to set the next meeting date straight away.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

5 steps to make the most of feedback sessions

To get as much as possible out of a feedback meeting, good preparation is crucial. However, dealing with feedback and follow-up are also important. After all, it makes little sense to just listen to the feedback and then forget about it straight afterwards.

If you really want to develop and grow from feedback, you need to invest a little time – both before and after the interview.

These 5 steps will help you make the most of your next feedback meeting:

  1. Prepare properly
  2. Reflect realistically
  3. Accept criticism
  4. Follow up carefully
  5. Use feedback loops

1. Prepare properly

Preparation is the key, both for employees and managers.

If you are new to the company, you should first and foremost find out about the existing feedback culture, internal processes, and interview procedures. Who is your dialogue partner? If necessary, it is better to ask too many questions than too few.

Think about the most important aspects of your work in advance, for example

  • Cooperation within the team and with superiors
  • Type and scope of your own tasks
  • Previous and future goals
  • General conditions such as working hours, work-life balance, and working atmosphere

You should also prepare for the question about your wishes for the future. For example, you can mention further training, areas of responsibility, or new projects.

The following applies to all discussion topics: collect arguments in advance and think about what counter-arguments or points of criticism your manager could bring up. This way, you will be better prepared for the conversation and won't be taken by surprise. Specific examples and KPIs are also useful, for example to demonstrate successes.

2. Reflect realistically

Being realistic when assessing yourself is part of the preparation, but it's not that easy.

The following questions can help:

  • What have I achieved?
  • What goals and projects have I completed?
  • What have I done particularly well?
  • What have I accomplished that exceeds my normal tasks?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • What other skills can I contribute?
  • What do I still need to improve?
  • Where do I need more support?
  • Where did I have problems and how can I solve them in future?
  • In which direction do I want to develop?

Important tip: Be honest with yourself. Admitting your mistakes and weaknesses is an important step towards further development and improvement.

3. Accept criticism

The right preparation and self-assessment is half the battle.

The next step is to master the feedback meeting with confidence.

Remember: you don't need to be afraid of the meeting! Effective feedback is the best incentive for self-development.

Two employees in feedback session

You will grow from criticism – as long as you accept it.

If criticism is unconstructive, incomprehensible, or unjustified, you should remain objective, ask questions, and request examples.

These are the absolute don'ts when getting feedback:

  • Rejecting everything
  • Constantly looking for excuses
  • Gossiping about others
  • Putting the blame on others
  • Becoming aggressive

4. Follow up carefully

At the end of the meeting, summarise the results with your manager. Reflect on the conversation together. This will help make future meetings even better.

The most important discussion points and agreements should be documented. The minutes will help everyone follow up on the meeting.

Make notes and record what you would like to improve in the future. Remind yourself of the points often. Or, put them somewhere visible at your workplace. This way, you won't forget them and will truly work on them.

To make better use of feedback meetings, the following questions will help you reflect:

  • Was I prepared well enough? In which areas do I need more preparation next time?
  • Did I address all my wishes and topics?
  • Was the discussion atmosphere pleasant and respectful?
  • Did I receive constructive praise and criticism?
  • Did I understand everything?
  • Did I respond professionally to the feedback?
  • What would I like to do better in the next interview?
  • What do I expect from my manager in future feedback meetings?

If you realise that you have not taken much from the feedback meeting or feel that you have been treated unfairly, you should speak to your manager about this. After all, feedback can and should go both ways – so both sides benefit.

“Withholding feedback is choosing comfort over growth.”

Adam Grant, author and psychologist

5. Use feedback loops

It is best if feedback meetings take place regularly and not just once a year.

At the end of the meeting, you can ask for the date of the next meeting. You can also suggest having feedback more often.

After all, every piece of feedback is a new incentive to improve yourself. If meetings are only once a year, it's easy to forget good intentions.

You can also review goals and agreements in good time and correct them if necessary.

Problems and conflicts are addressed earlier and do not become huge, unsolvable obstacles.

At the same time, regular feedback meetings strengthen the relationship, motivation, and satisfaction.

If you face new problems, finish a project, or have something special on your mind, ask for extra appointments – even outside the regular feedback loops. It's best to deal with big issues quickly instead of waiting too long.

Checklist for a successful feedback session

  • Prepare for possible questions in advance
  • Put together arguments and questions
  • Write down feedback, wishes, and goals
  • Reflect on yourself and your own performance
  • Seek mutual exchange
  • Present feedback constructively and objectively
  • In return: accept criticism with confidence
  • Clarify incomprehensible criticism and open conflicts
  • Define agreements and solutions together
  • Openly address wishes and goals
  • Keep official minutes
  • Make notes about potential for improvement
  • Reflect on the conversation
  • Implement feedback
  • Ask for regular appointments

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