If you’re a manager, offering constructive feedback is important to your success and that of your staff. Constructive feedback builds knowledge and skills, increases motivation. Feedback can identify problematic issues and solve them. Most importantly, effective feedback helps ensure your business unit meets its goals. Poorly delivered feedback, however, can be damaging to your goals and to the morale of your staff. That’s why it’s necessary to understand what works and what should be avoided.
Here’s 3 tips used by professional coaches on how to give constructive feedback:
Tip 1 – Be prepared, be clear
To offer feedback that precipitates change, you must be prepared. You must also be explicit about the behaviour you wish to address and then substantiate it. If someone isn’t a team player, saying so does not outline the problem. Vague feedback can be confusing or seem insurmountable, which does little to encourage positive change. On the other hand, telling an employee that you’ve noticed they don’t contribute when everyone is busy, is something the employee can change.
Tip 2 – Be specific, explain impact, don’t argue
When offering positive or negative feedback, be specific and brief. Supply information about what the employee is doing rather than simply praise or criticize. “Good job!” is meaningless. However, saying, “I thought your presentation was professionally delivered and you came well-prepared” sends a clear message of what you value. Don’t stop there, explain the consequence of that behaviour. “Given how good you are at this, I will give you more opportunities to present to senior leaders. This will free me up to finish developing our strategy.” Showing the consequence reinforces the behaviour and demonstrates why you appreciate that behaviour, which increases the employee’s motivation to continue that behaviour.
On the subject of constructive feedback − don’t argue. For someone who lacks team commitment but is looking for advancement, let them know the consequences of their actions. “You’re not contributing when everyone is swamped. This means not everyone will help you when you’re busy. And I can’t promote you unless you work well with others.” Once you deliver the feedback as succinctly as the statement above, stop and let them respond. If the criticism isn’t well-received, repeat your point. Acknowledge that it’s difficult to hear the feedback and difficult for you to provide it, but don’t justify or argue. Ask that individual to think on the matter and return with a solution. Is this approach harsh? Not providing feedback is worse. Remember, without input your employee will remain unaware and cannot act.
Tip 3 – Do it often, be caring
People are more open to constructive feedback when it’s offered regularly from someone who cares. If you focus on positive traits and contributions, there will be less need for negative feedback in the long run. Employees will know what actions you value, will focus on those and will be less likely to do things that require corrective feedback.
Although positive feedback is more pleasant to deliver make sure you mean it. Disingenuous compliments or congratulating someone for doing their job isn’t enough. A poorly thought out “good job” isn’t motivating or helpful. Again, be specific. What exactly was good about the work they did and what was the impact of that good work? Do your homework; be aware of what’s going on with the individuals who report to you. And remember, you don’t need to wait to offer positive feedback. The sooner the better and if possible, make it public. You needn’t assemble the entire office, but a little ceremony, befitting the circumstances, can lift everyone’s morale − even yours!