How to give effective feedback

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Employee feedback is an incredibly powerful tool – if offered properly, it has the ability to grow and develop the people in your organisation, improve the levels of trust and communication, and strengthen the bonds between employees and managers

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on 15Five

Here are some tips to help leaders give employee feedback that’s frequent, effective and will help you get you the outcomes you need.

Avoid giving unsolicited advice

Only a third of people believe the feedback they receive is helpful; this is because, more often than not, it’s unsolicited, which can create an immense amount of stress for the person receiving it. If your team doesn’t ask for feedback directly, be sure to ask them if, when, and how they’d like to receive it.

By doing this, you can give the control to your employees, and increase the likelihood that they will act on the feedback you share. Empower your team to control the feedback agenda by helping them feel confident and comfortable enough to ask for it.

Be specific

Employee feedback should be solutions-oriented, crystal clear, and to the point. If your intention is to offer corrective feedback, general comments, like ‘Your work needs to be improved’ or ‘You have to do better than that’ can leave your employee confused and in the dark as to what aspect of their work needs to be corrected.

Be specific about what you’d like your team to do, and offer guidance on how they can apply the feedback. For example, ‘I noticed you were late on your last two deadlines. I’d like to work with you on your time management to ensure you’re not committing to too much, and are completing each of your tasks in a timely manner.’

Come with a level of empathy

“Delivering feedback that exposes a wide gap in self-knowledge demands an extra measure of sensitivity. Like ripping off a scab, the sting of discovering such a profound gap often elicits strong emotions that can easily be confused as defensiveness. If you’re someone who bears the brunt of your colleague’s difficult behaviour, be sure you can set those frustrations aside in favour of the empathy you’ll need for this conversation. Before you even approach your colleague, be prepared to give them the space they’ll need to feel shocked upon receiving your feedback. Remember not to interpret it as intensified resistance to your message,” says organisational consultant, Ron Carucci.

Keep it private

Don’t criticise publicly – ever.

For some people, even praise is better delivered in a private meeting; some people simply don’t like being the centre of attention. You can also consider offering employee feedback in the form of a written response; this can give you time to reflect and offer a more thoughtful answer.

Feedback isn’t just uncomfortable for the receiver, it can be uncomfortable for the giver as well. By moving the location to a more informal area, you can help to alleviate some of the underlying pressure.

Don’t take the ‘sandwich approach’

Helping someone improve should always be the goal of feedback, but sandwiching corrective feedback between two pieces of positive feedback won’t soften the blow. This method creates confusion for the receiver, undermines your feedback, and can decrease levels of trust.

Although it may feel more uncomfortable for the giver, being up front and transparent with corrective feedback sets the foundation for an authentic conversation. Focus on delivering feedback tactfully, instead of beating around the bush.

Make the conversation a two-way street

Lecturing someone on how they should improve is about as effective as talking to a brick wall. Don’t forget the important element of respect when discussing vulnerable topics, and certainly don’t talk at someone when it’s far more effective to open up the conversation and talk with them.

Let the receiver respond to your feedback, and allow them to ask follow-up questions. Once the issue is clear, then the two of you two can work together to decide on a solution or course-of-action.

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