Giving constructive feedback is essential to building wining teams and doesn’t have to come at the expense of building strong relationships. In fact, in healthy working environments, a tough coach can bond teams together through a clear sense of accountability and mutual respect.
Feedback is most effective when:
- It is shared frequently: schedule recurring one-on-one meetings with individual teammates so they become accustomed to expecting feedback, both positive and constructive
- It aims to achieve a specific outcome: are you looking to reinforce or change a behavior? Keep the desired end-state in mind as you structure your conversation, if you are not clear on what you are asking an employee to do differently, it may be too soon to discuss. Identify the specific goal, collect tangible examples of what it looks like to achieve this goal, and then share your feedback
- It is realistic in its expectations: if the end-state is two or three steps away, focus your initial conversations on what it will take to achieve the first step and go from there
- It shows respect for the recipient: a bookend approach is often effective. Start by highlighting what is going well, ask your teammate what they think could have gone better, reinforce or add on any additional feedback you have on enhancement opportunities, and end by reinforcing their progress in the journey
- It is a two-way conversation: allowing employees to self-identity what they think is working or not working is a great way to start a feedback conversation; this opens the door to anchor back to comments they make about themselves, allowing you to build on their thoughts without making them feel defensive
- It is expressed as a point-of-view and not an absolute: using language like “here’s what I observed” or “from my perspective,” can help set the tone that your feedback is merely a sample size of one and again helps diffuse defensiveness
Feedback doesn’t have to come with a sour taste
We often times build up fear surrounding difficult conversations. We worry that by revealing our concerns our teammates might dislike us, hold a grudge, or retaliate. “In reality though, fearing the worse will only close you off from having productive conversations.”
The more you use your feedback muscle, the stronger you will get at flexing it. Work towards sharing both positive and constructive feedback on a regular basis. This cadence will help break the anxiety and make feedback feel like less of an event.
And, remember, at the end of the day, giving tough feedback is worth the risk of strained relationships and it essential to the health of your organization and your team.
When is the right time to give feedback?
Just like everything else in business, you definitely want to be intentional about when you give feedback.
Useful Times for Feedback is:
- When a project is successfully completed
- When an employee is expecting feedback; either because you scheduled time for this feedback or because an employee knows you observed a behavior
- When the likelihood of improving a person’s skills is high, because the opportunity to use those skills again is imminent
- When a situation cannot be ignored
Resist Instant Feedback:
- When you do not have all the facts
- When the only feedback you have consistent of elements outside the individuals control
- When the employee appears to be highly emotional or vulnerable (i.e. too soon)
- When you do not have the time to deliver the message in a calm and thorough manner, building in time to actively listen
- When you do not have a solution for a behavior you believe needs to be corrected
Adapted from Harvard Business Review’s 20 Minute Manager Series on Giving Effective Feedback