Feedback isn’t always easy to share but it’s necessary for growth and if done correctly, it can be a powerful influence for improvement. Keep these pointers in mind to make sure you’re providing your peers and team members with feedback that is helpful and effective.
Feedback should not be reserved only for problematic situations – it’s an ongoing process that should occur regularly. Give frequent praise and shout outs for good work to balance out criticism when it arises. An article from Entrepreneur suggests, “Give at least as much positive feedback as you do negative.”
The Balance contributor Susan M. Heathfield believes that successful feedback must also be consistent. She writes, “If the actions are great today, they’re great tomorrow. If the policy violation merits disciplinary action, it should always merit disciplinary action.”
Pro tip: Share positive and negative feedback in separate conversations for the highest impact.
Keep the overall tone of the conversation as positive as possible if you want your message to get through. If you have overly critical comments about adjustments that need to be made, it can trigger a threatened or defensive response. Once a person is on the defense they are less likely to process and apply your feedback.
If you’re upset about an incident, wait until you’re ready to deliver your message in a calm and professional tone. Whenever possible, hold the conversation in a casual, private setting. Effective feedback is sincere and intended to help – not to publicly shame or point fingers.
Pro tip: Allow the person to mentally prepare by first asking for permission to share your feedback.
Make sure to explain the direct impact that resulted from the negative behavior so the person understands the feedback as it relates to company’s performance as a whole. Inc. Magazine contributor John Brandon says, “Feedback should not just be ‘you did this right and you should be happy’ and that’s the end result. It should be ‘you did this right and, when you know that and keep doing that, you help the company.’” Effective feedback comes from a clear understanding of the organization’s values rather versus personal beliefs.
It’s also helpful to orient your feedback around specific goals or objectives so the recipient can see what progress they are making towards the target. Time Magazine contributor Annie Murphy Paul writes, “Information about performance means little if it’s not understood in relation to an ultimate goal.”
Pro tip: Lead with phrases like “The reason I’m telling you this is…” or “I hope the result of our conversation is…”
Timeliness is key when giving feedback. Waiting to share your thoughts on someone’s performance makes it difficult for them to see the issue clearly and understand why change is needed. In an article from Entrepreneur Magazine, contributor Scott Halford writes, “The adult brain learns best by being caught in action.”
Pro tip: Make sure to act immediately and provide feedback before the learning opportunity passes.
Specific feedback is the most powerful. Avoid vague and ambiguous statements and instead, speak directly and positively about what should be done. Use specific examples without making judgements to illustrate your points. Time Magazine writer Annie Murphy Paul suggests to “Supply information about what the learner is doing, rather than simply praise or criticism.”
Pro tip: Use the person’s name and reference specific actions that should be stopped or continued.
Be careful with your words. If you aren’t, your feedback could turn out to be counterproductive and actually reduce the person’s motivation to improve. Avoid coming across as controlling or competitive by offering assistance rather than unwanted instruction. Be careful not to use subjective statements, generalizations or discouraging words that could offend the person or question their intelligence.
Pro tip: Leave out labels, assumptions and “you” language. Add “yet” to soften negative comments.
Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer Carole Robin advises, “Great feedback isn’t a lecture, it’s a conversation. Make sure you view this kind of interaction as a two-way exchange.” As you’re sharing your feedback, ask questions and make time to pause and hear the other person’s reaction. Confirm that the person hears what you are expecting of them and that you understand what they need from you.
Pro tip: Start the conversation by asking the person for his or her perspective on the situation.
Offer a few actionable suggestions that the person can take to improve performance. If you are not in a management role, it’s best to do this only if advice is requested. Find out if the person could use additional training, more thorough direction or help improving a faulty process. Work with them to track progress towards your recommendations and plan a time to get back together to discuss changes in performance and whether additional actions are needed.
Pro tip: Provide whatever tools, training and/or support you can to help the person apply your feedback.
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