As a manager or leader, the most necessary skill one needs to nurture is the art of giving feedback. Contrary to popular misconception, employees always value honest feedback rather than skirting issues or only touching on accomplishments. Every leader must understand that feedback is a two-way street and be accepting of receiving feedback too.
Delivering positive feedback is easy and boosts employee confidence. The challenge for a leader lies in how to give feedback on an error or mistake that led to losses or problems. Mistakes do happen, and negative feedback which has to be delivered needs to be constructive and non-accusatory. The purpose of the exercise should be that the receiver learns from the activity. Constructive feedback is looked forward to by employees who want to improve their performance or levels of proficiency in their field of operations.
Here are some tips to guide you on giving effective employee feedback:
Timely feedback is effective feedback
The feedback that is given immediately after any situation, whether positive or negative, is the most effective. With increasing time-lapse, the effectiveness reduces. If anger and negative emotions are high at that time it is advisable to cool off before giving feedback. Anger can get vented under the veil of feedback, which is not professional or productive. When feedback is positive, ensure it is in time with public recognition and praise for an achievement.
Giving feedback is a repeated activity
Feedback is effective when given consistently, not as a one-time activity (typically at the time of performance reviews). The system of performance appraisal once a year is now obsolete due to its ineffectiveness. Today, managers use feedback consistently to appraise and guide their teams through projects. Create a culture of ongoing feedback so that employees get timely inputs to grow and develop their skills at work. Use feedback to keep employees engaged at the workplace. Once the employees see the possibility of growth, they will approach you themselves for feedback on any work.
Be clear and specific in your feedback
Prepare in advance for your feedback session. If there is an issue at hand, have a productive discussion on how the problem occurred, the details of impact, and how it can be addressed, along with measures that can prevent any future incidents. An example is, instead of saying, “I’m unhappy with your work” you could say, “The sales report created used incomplete data, so it affected the projections for the next quarter”. Ensure you are not approaching the issue with an aggressive or threatening stance. Convey your thoughts through facts and have clarity in expression so that you do not appear evasive. Be generous and specific with your compliments where required. Create space for your subordinate to express their views without judging.
Avoid micromanagement and be fair
Consistent feedback is good for teams, but leaders must consciously avoid the mistake of falling into the trap of micro-managing teams through feedback. People need space to work, innovate, make mistakes, learn and grow. Don’t expect them to follow your work styles and life views. Be an enabler of opportunities through valuable insights and motivation in feedback sessions. Feedback should be on actionable behavior like “next time you could check with the current project manager before sending out employee training needs data to HR”. Employees can work on improving actionable behavior. Encourage learning from peers and growing by trying new initiatives. The purpose of the repeated feedback should be employee development.
Feedback should focus on actionable positive behavior
Starting a feedback conversation with the positive actions and achievements of a person will make the person open to listening. Show sincere appreciation for things done well. Avoid any evasion or avoidance of the problem scheduled for discussion. For example, “You have been very good with onboarding the new client and have been handling all the client communication well. Recently, I have been noticing your repeated absence from the client calls on Friday? Could you tell me more about the reasons for your absences?” This question will serve as an opening for the employee to talk about their issues. Discuss it further with alternatives and solutions for dealing with the problems.
The feedback process is about accepting feedback as much as giving
To normalize the feedback process, show your team that you, as a manager, are not above the process. Initiate receiving feedback in team meetings by stating clearly about you being open to accepting feedback on your actions and work. If you have one-to-one meetings with your team members, do not finish the conversation without asking specific questions like “Would you like to tell me your views on my project timelines?” “Is there any specific area of my functioning which you think can be improved?” When posing for feedback, you will find yourself getting critical feedback pushing you into a defensive mindset. The important lesson here is to practice listening without reacting. Introspect on what led to the said perception about your actions. Ask questions for a greater understanding of what you can change or do to rectify the behavior.
Giving effective feedback and receiving feedback is a good way for teams to learn and grow. How the team leaders and organizations plan and deploy the exercise consistently will prove the success or failure of the activity. Work on a pattern of giving and receiving feedback, and over a while, you will arrive at the correct balances required to make a success of it. Use the feedback process, experience its benefits and become a successful team leader!
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