Giving feedback is something that takes time and practice to master. New employees and longtime managers alike can struggle to acquire this critical skill. Providing an evaluation or critique on someone’s behaviour or performance can seem daunting; giving feedback can turn into a very awkward encounter. It is essential to recognize that receiving feedback is equally unnerving because it is hard to take someone’s sentiments about you, not personal, which ultimately can lead you to react defensively.
So what exactly is feedback? Feedback is information about reactions to a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.
How can you ensure your feedback is appropriately received and understood? Follow our eight FEEDBACK tips to help you improve the next time you need to give feedback at work:
Formulate a Plan:
It is vital to ensure you are clear on what you need to say, but this doesn’t mean you should wait until this person’s next performance review. Once you have identified that a feedback conversation needs to take place, act promptly, choose an appropriate location, and ensure you have determined the what, why and how this person can improve.
Ensure Positive Intent:
As the giver of feedback, you need to be engaging in feedback conversations to help improve the performance of the receiver. If you are angry or frustrated, it is not the time to be giving someone feedback. This conversation should be used as a learning opportunity to help the individual better meet your expectations of them. Should your frustration be clouding your ability to lead this conversation effectively, it is best to cool off and check your emotions before moving forward.
Taking an empathetic approach is something that many leaders overlook, but it should not be forgotten. Being empathetic means, you are attuned to the emotions and concerns of others. When giving feedback to a subordinate, you must look at the conversation from this person’s point of view and recognize how this person may be feeling. Consider how you might think if you were on the other side of this conversation. What would you need to hear from the person giving you the feedback to change your approach and move from compliance to commitment? In other words, what do you need to say to move your employees from just complying to what you are suggesting they improve versus saying something that motivates them to be committed to changing their behaviours?
One of the most fruitless things you could do when giving feedback is being vague or unclear. The feedback should be specific and focus on the action. You do not want to give someone vague feedback such as “You could do better” or “Good job.” You will leave the receiver wondering, “How can I do better?” and having no guidance on how to correct their behaviour. It is crucial to include specific examples where you explain what happened, how it affected the team/project/organization and provide exact steps to improvement.
Carefully choosing your language is essential when giving feedback. If you need to provide constructive feedback, you should focus on action-oriented language. Avoid phrases such as “Don’t do…” or “I wish you wouldn’t…” as you are more likely to encourage your receiver to take on a defensive stance. Instead, use encouraging language such as “Next time, you could try…” or “Taking this approach will…”.
Not only do you need to be in the right mind frame to give feedback, but you also need to ensure the receiver is willing and ready to receive your guidance. It is okay if this person says no. This conversation is a learning opportunity, so it needs to be treated as such; you won’t always be able to check off this conversation on your time. It does not need to be an overly complicated request, just something along the lines of “Can we touch base for a few minutes regarding the project you just completed?”.
Consider Communication Styles
Each of us tends to demonstrate one of four communication styles: emotive, directive, reflective or supportive. Being aware of your communication style and the person you are communicating with is essential for building a positive feedback conversation. You may need to flex your communication style to theirs and share your feedback in a way that they will hear it. Check out our blog on Mastering Communication Styles to learn more about how to identify each.
Keep an Open Mind
When giving feedback, it is essential to have an open mind and play to the cues of the conversation. You may intend to speak to a subordinate for a few minutes, but if the discourse opens the door for a coaching conversation, take advantage! Or maybe the encounter was very constructive, and now is a good time to solicit feedback from the receiver. You want to encourage your employees that feedback goes both ways, so you welcome any insight they would like to provide you.
Next time you need to give feedback in the workplace, don’t worry! This conversation is an opportunity for you to connect with your team and help enhance individual and organizational performance. Just remember our eight FEEDBACK tips and your next feedback conversation will be a breeze:
- Formulate a Plan
- Ensure Positive Intent
- Embrace Empathy
- Deliver Examples
- Bypass Negativity
- Ask Permission
- Consider Communication Styles
- Keep an Open Mind