Improve How You Give Feedback – Tips From The Great British Bake Off

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you already know I’m a raving fan of The Great British Bake Off. Among the many reasons I enjoy this show, there is one less obvious to most fans. As much as the show is about baking, it is even more about coaching, teaching, and learning. It demonstrates how great coaches deliver feedback and build confidence. Even more, The Great British Bake Off teaches how we should receive feedback. Therefore, if you want to improve the way you deliver or accept feedback, follow the example of The Great British Bake Off judges and contestants.

Suppose you haven’t yet discovered this rare find in TV land. In that case, the synopsis is The Great British Bake Off starts with 12 contestants. The contestants bake three goods in each episode, which are judged, and one contestant is eliminated until three remain for the final competition. The bakers are allowed to plan, prepare, and practice for two of the bakes. However, the third is a surprise. The bakers receive minimal instructions, including ingredients without measurements or even bake time. What’s worse is that very few have heard or seen the item they are to bake.

When I first started watching The Great British Bake Off, the contestants’ camaraderie inspired me to keep going. I particularly like the way they bonded and supported each other despite being in direct competition. Consequently, The Great British Bake Off is a master class in creating office culture. The prize they are competing for is merely a cake plate. However, when you think about it, they walk away with so much more—especially those eliminated.


Coaching and Giving Employees Feedback the Great British Baking Show Way

The judges offer intensely detailed specific feedback for each contestant throughout the season. The feedback provided by Paul Hollywood is concrete and efficient. It highlights the baker’s expertise while also taking issues and ambitions into account. His feedback doesn’t just consist of “this is good” or “this is bad.” Paul’s feedback also contains why it is and what action would have changed the outcome. For example, he will tell a contestant they underbaked their dish, and it needed another ten minutes in the oven. He goes on to point out specific areas of the bake that resulted in a poor outcome.

Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry, and Prue Leith didn’t invent the feedback method used in the show. They are the tactics that research shows to be best practice in providing effective feedback. As a result, watching The Great British Bake Off will provide you with exceptional examples and instruction on how to deliver feedback to your employees that gets results. Furthermore, following their example on how to give feedback will boost your employee’s confidence while at the same time helping them achieve their goals.

Make eye contact.

When delivering feedback, it is essential to make eye contact with the person. Eye contact is the most challenging yet most important part of body language when delivering and receiving feedback. It commands attention, shows respect, appreciation, and allows for true emotions to be expressed.


Be specific.

Research conducted by Hattie & Timperley outlines that specific feedback is far more impactful than general feedback when helping someone reach their goals. Detailed feedback encourages your employee to focus on that particular task in future assignments. This tactic is immediately apparent on The Great British Bake Off. As an example, the bakes often contain many different elements with varying tastes and textures. Instead of saying “good job,” they comment on each individual taste, texture, and aspect of the visual presentation. The baker knows which element they got right and which ones to improve on in the future. And, more importantly, how to improve it.

Emphasize what is most important.

By emphasizing what is important, the contestants are clear on where their focus needs to be. In the case of The Great British Bake Off, appearance matters, but it always comes down to flavor. Paul has mentioned on more than one occasion that some bakers focus on style over substance. The feedback the judges deliver prioritizes the taste and flavor. As a result, they focus their feedback on the most important learning outcome.

Help your employees progress as a result of your feedback.

Feedback should help your employees advance toward their ultimate goals. Therefore, you should provide specific feedback using proactive language. Paul, Prue, and Mary do this with each contestant. After tasting the food, they provide detailed feedback on each element. For example, if the cherries sink to the bottom of the cake, they will advise coating the cherries in flour to get equal distribution in the future. The judges frequently are frequently heard saying “I wish that would have worked” which encourages the bakers to try again and is a sign of support.


Ask insightful questions when delivering feedback.

Throughout each episode, the judges of The Great British Bake Off frequently ask the contestant questions. When they happen upon a contestant executing the bake in a non-traditional way, they will ask why they chose that method and try to understand the benefits it brings. Because they ask these questions, it forces the contestants to think through their knowledge and explain their process. Asking employees questions during a feedback session encourages them to think and formulate ideas on their own.

I recently finished Simon Sinek’s book, The Infinite Game. He makes one key point: business is not a game to be won because there is no final clock; it is an infinite game that requires an infinite mindset. The Great British Bake Off is similar in that there is no real prize. Next year there will be another competition and another winner. The objective is to become a better baker. The point is to learn new skills and push yourself to be better than you ever thought possible.

Your employees want the same when they look to you for coaching and feedback. They are hungry for knowledge. Your employees want the feeling of accomplishment that comes with being their best. When you give your employees feedback, do so in a way that teaches particular skills that they can apply to a wide range of activities. When delivering feedback leverage the model used on The Great British Bake Off.


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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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