The Power of Constructive Feedback: A Guide for Product Managers

Posted By - Emma Burt


Constructive feedback is an essential tool for personal and professional growth, particularly for product managers. It offers valuable insights that help refine products, enhance team dynamics, and foster individual development. 

But, God is it hard! I think what many people immediately hear when the phrase “constructive feedback” comes up is “things I’ve done wrong”. Plus, we’ve probably had more than one occasion of receiving terrible feedback that did nothing to help. However, as constructive feedback can be so powerful for improving ourselves and our products, we can’t let this put us off. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of constructive feedback, identify areas where it is crucial, and provide actionable steps to effectively seek, receive, and utilise feedback.

Why is Constructive Feedback Important?

Constructive feedback is a process of offering well-intentioned guidance aimed at improving performance. It serves as a catalyst for growth, enabling product managers to identify blind spots, refine strategies, and make better-informed decisions. By embracing feedback, product managers can create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

To be a great Product Manager, there are three key areas you should build habits around seeking constructive feedback: 

  1. Your Product: The obvious one! Seek feedback on the usability, functionality, and value proposition of your product. Understand how it meets customer needs, identifies areas for improvement, and uncovers opportunities for innovation.
  2. Your Team: Solicit feedback on team dynamics, collaboration, and communication. Discover ways to foster a more inclusive and supportive environment that encourages creativity and productivity.
  3. Yourself: Invite feedback on your leadership style, decision-making processes, and professional development. Recognise your strengths, address weaknesses, and acquire new skills to enhance your effectiveness as a product manager.

You may already have some habits that support getting constructive feedback in these areas – the team retrospective is one ritual that supports team feedback, as an example. But, how to remove any ick? And make it useful?

Start with you

“The trick to viewing feedback as a gift is to be more worried about having blind spots than hearing about them.”

– James Clear

The one thing that is firmly in your control is you. To receive constructive feedback effectively, you have to manage your ego and maintain an open mind. You can do this by embracing a growth mindset, where feedback is seen as an opportunity for learning and development rather than a personal attack. 

Also, cultivating self-awareness and knowing where your blind spots might be. This, coupled with the open mind and a willingness to consider alternative viewpoints, will foster a more constructive feedback exchange.

Creating the right environment

Establishing an environment conducive to honest feedback is crucial. If the people you need the feedback from don’t feel they can talk honestly and safely you won’t get honest feedback. By building strong relationships with team members and stakeholders, fostering trust and psychological safety you create an environment where people are more likely to be honest. Encourage open communication and make it clear that feedback is valued and appreciated, with your actions as well as your words. 

Also, give thought to where and how you ask for feedback. Trying to grab someone as they run down a corridor isn’t going to get the best response. Think about the person who you are asking to provide you with feedback. Do they like to think about things first? Would they be more comfortable outside of the office, or perhaps a voice or video call? Reflect on these areas and then decide how best to approach them.

When engaging with customers for feedback, the environment can be a little more forced, particularly in an interview set up. Stating the obvious of the purpose of the session and how welcome feedback is can help. Often, customers can be afraid of offending the people who are working on a product, so let them know you want to hear everything – warts and all.  Actively listen to their suggestions, concerns, and ideas. Avoid giving commentary or defending your product. 

Making a great request 

To give yourself the best chance of getting constructive feedback, you need to make specific and well-structured requests. Be clear about the areas you seek feedback on, using targeted questions to direct the conversation. Listen attentively and encourage elaboration by asking follow-up questions that delve deeper into the feedback. 

Always end with expressing gratitude for the feedback received, demonstrating appreciation for the time and effort invested by others. This helps further create an environment where feedback is valued, supporting people to continue to provide great constructive feedback. 

Reflecting on Feedback and Taking Action

Upon receiving feedback, take the time to reflect on the insights provided. You don’t have to act right away! Consider different perspectives, evaluate the validity of the feedback, and identify actionable steps for improvement. For example, when looking at feedback on your product you need to consider your product vision. The concern might be factually correct, but it might be something you are willing to have if your focus is to be elsewhere.

Taking notes can help capture key points and ensure nothing is overlooked. By transforming feedback into actionable items, you can drive positive change and continuous growth in your product, team and within yourself.

The power of constructive feedback

Constructive feedback is a powerful tool for product managers, enabling them to enhance their products, team dynamics, and personal effectiveness. By managing their ego, fostering an open environment, making effective feedback requests, and reflecting on feedback, product managers can leverage constructive criticism to refine their strategies and achieve greater success. 

Embrace the transformative power of constructive feedback and embark on a journey of continuous improvement as a product manager through our Product Mastery Pathways, which offer 6 months of focused support and lifetime access to a community. Find out more here, see what product management courses are coming up, or get in touch to arrange a private course. 

For more articles on feedback check out:

The Case Study of Lin’s Journey of Fixing Feedback

A Scrum Master’s Guide to Effective Feedback

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