We are all regularly giving and receiving feedback. This could be verbally or in writing, or implicit in our gestures or tone of voice. Feedback provides information about how you have perceived other peoples behaviours and gives an evaluation of those behaviours. Feedback can reinforce your employees strengths, keep them goal orientated, provide direction for behaviour, and increase their ability to identify and solve problems on their own.
So to give feedback effectively you need to; concentrate on the behaviour, not the person. Provide positives as well as negatives and vice versa. Give specific examples. Try and be realistic about their skills, ability and your own expectations. Take ownership of your feedback, don’t blame it on others. Be consistent, make sure you provide regular feedback which follows a clear format. Finally make sure you offer continuous support, the feedback should only be one method of supporting your employees.
Giving effective feedback
Always consider the feedback’s potential value to the person who is receiving it. How would you feel in their position? Try to keep in mind that giving feedback is part of a process of getting the best out of your employees. If provided thoughtlessly or without proper consideration this will not achieve that aim.
Concentrate on the behaviour, not the person
When dealing with unfavourable behaviour, by concentrating on that, rather than the person behaviour you can often avoid sounding accusatory. This helps to keep the discussion focused on improving the behaviour. Begin by stating the behaviour in question, then describe how you feel about it, and ending with how you want it to change. Example: “You have been late a lot this month. I’m worried that you are missing time and important information. Can we meet soon to discuss it?” Undoubtedly, this sounds is much more palatable to the person receiving the feedback than, “You are constantly late, and clearly don’t care about your work!”
Balance the content
Often referred to as the “sandwich approach.” Begin by focusing on strengths. This will give the recipient a sense that they are valued and will help to reduce any tension of defensiveness if and when more negative issues need to be discussed. Once you have established a good start, move on to discuss areas of improvement and ways to make changes. Always end with a positive comment. This approach helps to build confidence and keep areas for improvement, in perspective, which will ultimately keep up motivation. Example: “Your presentation was great. You made spoke clearly, and had clearly done your research. However, remember to look up and make eye contact with the clients. It was a great presentation, keep up the good work!”.
Always try and be specific. General comments are not particularly useful. By using examples to make your point you are being as clear as you can be and you will not leave the recipient confused.
Of course you need to be fully aware of an employees role, job description and grade before providing feedback. If you are providing feedback on something which is above and beyond their position, this is inappropriate. Likewise, feedback shouldn’t ever focus on something they cannot change, this can be both insulting and frustrating for the employee.
Own the feedback
It is simply cowardly to push your feedback onto other people and you will not earn your employees respect. Understandably you may not wish to provide negative feedback, this is not pleasant for anyone. But your are the manager, this is your role and you must own it if you team are to be successful. Strive to use the pronoun “I” rather than “they” which would imply that everyone else shares your opinion. This could make the employee feel vulnerable and isolated. And remember, feedback is merely your opinion.
Provide an appropriate time for feedback. If an incident has ocurred, a prompt response will have the greatest impact. Regular feedback should be given at set times agreed by by manager and employee and should follow a set format, known to both.
Offer continuing support
Feedback is a continuous process, not a one-time event. Always make a conscious effort to follow up. Let recipients know you are available if they have questions, and, if appropriate, ask for another opportunity to provide more feedback in the future.
Engage in Learning’s Performance Management Pathway courses will introduce you to ways to develop a motivated, high performance workforce and how to set achievable expectations. The Giving and Receiving Feedback module will show you how to frame feedback constructively and improve performance, motivation and engagement.