The Art of Giving Feedback
Every manager has experienced it at one time or another: the feedback void. Careful delivery of pertinent feedback is answered by silence. Feedback is often delayed until it can’t be avoided. Then an already on-edge employee reacts defensively, a stressed manager feels resentful of the whole process, and nothing actually changes. It’s no wonder many of us would drop feedback altogether if we could.
- Identify a goal — As a manager and leader, the aim of any feedback session rests with you. What is it you want to see from your staff? Where do you want them / the project to go? How do you envisage that happening.? Goals should be set both for the short and longer-term and communicated so both of you know what, if anything, needs to change and agree a way forward.
- Beware your own biases and limitations — Constructive feedback doesn’t simply involve telling people how you think the job should be done. It also requires providing them with the capacity and resources to perform effectively. While there may be a general ‘right’ way of doing things, there are often multiple — and equally good — ways to reach the same end-goal. Don’t assume that just because it’s not done ‘your’ way, it’s wrong.
- Have a conversation — ‘Feedbacking’ should be two-way street; be descriptive and give examples of when you have encountered the person’s positive / negative behaviour and invite a response. They will understand what you want from them and ensures they actively participate in their development.
- Don’t make it personal — Feedback is about actions and behaviour, not the person. Before giving it, it helps to look at the issue(s) and make sure you can separate the two. Use examples of behaviour to demonstrate this and if you can’t find any, it maybe that you’re targeting something incorrectly or you’re getting too personal.
- Avoid loaded language — Focus on asking WHAT and HOW, not WHY. Enquiring ‘why’ someone acted the way they did is akin to searching for a ‘motive’ and can come across as accusatory. This will set a negative tone, make the receiver act defensively and feel like they are on the back foot; none of which will lead to a constructive outcome.
- Be specific and timely — Change doesn’t happen overnight. First, you need to be clear about the change you want to see; second, give the person a reasonable and achievable amount of time in which to do it. Lastly, choose the right time to do it — it goes without saying that constructive negative feedback should not be given in front of others as it will defeat its purpose — however, you also need to consider: when the receiver is likely to be the most receptive; when you have time to listen to any concerns in response and support development; and when it will be most impactful for the team / any project.
- Offer training and development — If, as a result of the feedback given, the receiver feels they need additional training, consider the benefit of workshops, mentoring or coaching and make it available whenever possible.
- Be consistent in your approach — Have a standardised feedback policy that involves regular meetings and appraisals rather than pulling someone aside when the moment takes you. Your team will know what to expect and when, so they’ll feel more prepared.
- Acknowledge the good as often as the bad — Only giving negative constructive feedback, even when well-intentioned, will adversely affect performance. Recognising when your team (individually and as a whole) has done well will breed confidence and improve productivity. It will also increase their trust in you as a leader as it’ll be clear that your feedback is genuine.
- Follow up — If you’re truly focused on the long-term gains for your business, you should be playing the long game. Keeping a log of feedback given to juniors means it can be followed up at a later date and you can document their progress and reward it.
So go forth and feed back — your team will thank you for it and so will your business.