According to a survey on manager-led development effectiveness by the Corporate Leadership Council, ineffective feedback results in:
- 44% of employees being unclear about how to address their weaknesses
- 40% of employees not being motivated to avoid repeating the same mistakes, and
- 18% of employees becoming angry during feedback conversations
This survey affirms, what we see every day: managers and leaders at all levels fail to conduct effective feedback conversations with their direct reports and team members in an effort to avoid conflicts!
As leaders, we all want our employees to fully understand that feedback is a tool we use to maximize performance and enhance job satisfaction. Therefore, it is a tool we will employ frequently and with everyone. It is important that employees become comfortable receiving feedback and in fact, expect it! When employees anticipate feedback as the general rule rather than the exception, they are less likely to feel intimidated by it and of course, are more apt to see the feedback as a beneficial process.
The old adage “No news is good news” no longer holds true in the workplace, especially for our younger generation of employees or those who are upwardly mobile. Indeed, few employees like operating in darkness and fewer still enjoy receiving “feedback” regarding a laundry list of needs improvement items during a scheduled performance review rather than at the time of the infringement. Giving timely feedback helps ensure that concerns will be quickly and adequately addressed. Even when things are running smoothly, employees benefit from feedback. Positive feedback which affirms progress, effort and success is just as important as “needs improvement” feedback when things are not running as planned. So, be careful not to overlook or take for granted your team’s biggest achievers
Here are a few tips to consider when preparing to give feedback:
- Be specific – explain the exact behavior (the what, when, where and with whom) to be addressed. And, remember feedback should be fair and focused around work performance.
- Give the feedback quickly – the more immediate the better, but never longer than 24-72 hours. The more critical the feedback the faster it should be delivered.
- Give feedback privately – feedback can be given rather informally over coffee or during a shared ride to visit a customer, just make sure the discussion takes place out of earshot of others and in a place where you won’t be interrupted. Feedback should be given in person or by phone rather than by email, texting or other electronic methods –this is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and ensure you walk away with mutual respect.
- Make a request – try to agree on the issues and engage the employee in solving the problem during needs-improvement feedback. Asking questions while remaining open and empathetic are good ways to do this. You may also clarify expectations and make a request, such as “I request that you remove distractions during future meetings…remove your watch, leave your blackberry in your briefcase, etc.”
- Check for understanding and Follow-up – ask the employee to summarize what s/he has agreed to do and by when. Then agree on a date to review and make sure the request or solution was implemented.