As a leader, you have a responsibility to guide your team, and if you want to succeed, you must help them become the best they can be. Feedback is an essential part of that as it’s the form of communication that allows you to correct your employees’ behavior.You must be able to give out both positive and negative feedback equally well and treat every person fairly.
Giving Feedback: Do’s and Don’ts
Address the issue as soon as possible
Psychologists state that an adult brain learns more efficiently when it’s caught in the action. Therefore, you need to make your feedback immediate. This is especially important for criticism as you must tell the person how to correct their behavior so that they get better results right away.
Note that for feedback to be productive, you must give it out regularly. Short comments every 1-2 days would achieve more than a lengthy conversation once a quarter.
Be VERY specific
The person must know what exactly they did wrong or right. Be sure to explain your opinion in simple and specific terms to prevent misunderstandings. Feel free to ask the employee to reiterate the main points of your conversation. This way, you’ll see if they draw the right conclusions from your feedback.
Always be objective and use examples
Examples are necessary to ensure the person understands your feedback and takes it the right way. Use the situation that prompted the conversation as your main example and explain how different actions are perceived and why you want some of them corrected or why you encourage them.
Don’t allow your personal emotions to interfere, even if the matter is delicate. Being objective will help avert a conflict and show the person that they are being corrected, not scolded like a wayward child.
Be understanding and choose your timing wisely
Although immediate feedback is preferable, some situations require more careful planning. First of all, you need to talk to the employee privately, so that they aren’t embarrassed in from of their colleagues.
If emotions are running high, give yourself and your employees some time to cool down. Postponing a discussion, in this case, will ensure that the other party is receptive of the message.
No ‘Buts’, be honest in your feedback
Don’t try to ‘couch’ negative feedback with positive commentary. You have to be completely honest if you want your comments to prompt productive changes. Adding a positive, but shallow ‘but I know you’re a great person’ at the end makes the positive feedback seem insincere. This can make the whole message seem offending, instead of constructive criticism.
Explain the impact of the matter
You need to not only highlight the positive or negative impact of the situation but to show the person the implications of their actions. Tell them how this specific action affects the team and your business as a whole and explain WHY it is so. This will teach your employees to consider the scope of possible consequences and think ‘on a bigger scale’ in the future.
Pause and give the person time to explain
Feedback isn’t a one-sided kind of communication. You must give the person a chance to explain themselves and try to understand their actions from THEIR perspective. This will allow you to correct them more effectively.
‘You’re smart and I appreciate your opinion. I’d like to hear at least one idea from you at every meeting’.
‘Your dedication has shown that you can be trusted with bigger responsibilities. I expect you to continue working in the same vein and come to me for assistance or advice whenever you need’.
‘This was a fantastic accomplishment. This ‘describe situation’ you did, helped us increase our sales by 3% because customers like your ideas. I’d like you to share more of your insights in the future’.
‘I value your ability to analyze the situation and find a constructive solution. It didn’t work out this time because ‘describe situation’. Your approach wouldn’t have tackled this specific problem, why don’t you try ‘this’ instead’.
A Word on Constructive Criticism
You must be very careful when giving any form of negative feedback as it can breed resentment and ruin your relationship with the employee. Therefore, when you criticize, you must always keep your focus on the actions, not the person. Even if the problem is caused by their personal qualities, draw attention to the issue. For example, don’t say ‘You’re too slow’, instead go with ‘I can see that the project isn’t finished yet. Why did that happen and what can I do to help you prevent this in the future?’
Remember that any negative feedback you give must be objective and unemotional so as not to cause a shouting match. It also must be constructive. So you need to not only name the problem but also offer a solution.
‘I want you to know that I’ve gotten a few complaints about ‘problem’. I’d like to talk to you directly so that you can explain what caused this and if there is anything I can do to help’.
‘I understand that you’ve been stressed lately, but raising your voice is perceived as rude and rubs people the wrong way. Perhaps you should work from home for a week so you can relieve some stress’.
‘I see that not all your goals were achieved this week. Perhaps you’d like to talk about them so we can determine what went wrong. I’d gladly help you set more achievable goals for the next week’.
How to Encourage Employees to Give You More Feedback
It’s not only you, the boss, who has to give feedback, as your employees opinions matter as well and can teach you many useful things. Encourage them to share using these tactics:
- Establish specialized media channels.
A forum thread or a discussion on your social media group page would do. Don’t forget email and chat for personal comments and inquiries.
- Show that feedback is welcome.
Always express your appreciation of the feedback. A simple ‘thank you for sharing’ would do.
- Explain why no changes were made.
If you got a suggestion or complaint, explain why exactly it didn’t work and what prevents you from making the changes.
- Welcome both positive and negative feedback.
Never snap in reply to negative feedback.
Feedback Matters, So Do It Right
Feedback does not only help people make their opinions known, it prompts them to grow personally and professionally. Be sure to give it in an honest and objective way, especially when you criticize your employees. Always offering suggestions and do your best to show that people’s opinions matter to you.