One of the greatest skills a leader can possess is the ability to provide feedback directly and respectfully to employees. Regularly and consistently giving feedback to your team can make the most immediate positive difference to employees and businesses.
Though feedback is one of the main drivers of both personal and professional development, it can be a challenge to deliver good feedback.
In this blog, we will explore what good feedback looks like, how you can give it, and why good feedback is so important in helping your employees to thrive.
Good Feedback is Specific
Ambiguity in your feedback can lead to confusion and make it difficult for employees to know how and where to improve. For feedback to be effective, whether it’s a critique or praise for an employee’s contribution, it should specifically tie into a larger overall goal, rather than being generic, and should outline a course of action.
Providing feedback that is specific to an actual behaviour or action, with suggestions for improvement, will help employees to understand what specifically needs to be improved and how to make improvements.
Saying, “you need to shorten turnaround time on projects” may not be helpful if you don’t take into consideration the factors that could be causing workflow backups or helping the employee identify ways to improve turnaround times.
Identifying the cause of the slowdown and asking the employee to utilise project management tools and provide workflow updates not only identifies the issue, but also provides the employee with an action plan and clear path to improvement.
Good Feedback is Actionable
Providing employees with real steps they can take to improve their performance is just as important as providing feedback.
When you provide feedback, particularly if the feedback is meant to be constructive, it should provide some instruction and guidance to employees so they will know exactly which steps to take to improve.
For employees with a continuous improvement mindset, this sort of feedback is particularly valuable. General feedback, again, is not very helpful for employees. Keeping the feedback specific can make it more actionable.
If you think an employee’s performance could use improvement, make sure they know what great work in their role looks like so they can set a course for meeting those standards.
Good Feedback is Timely
Feedback is so much more useful when it’s given in a timely manner.
Providing feedback, whether positive or negative, while the specifics are fresh in your mind makes it more effective. Feedback should be offered as close as possible to the action in question. It makes no sense to say, five months after the fact. This is why it’s important to give feedback before the window of being able to reflect on and change a behaviour has passed.
It is particularly important to provide negative feedback (as positively and politely as possible) in a timely manner when an immediate correction is needed. It should not be given harshly because this can have the opposite of the intended effect.
This means not putting feedback off until it’s time for that annual performance review. It’s important for employees to receive feedback on their behaviour and performance more frequently than the annual review allows for. By the time those yearly reviews roll around, your feedback, if given in a timely manner, will have helped employees improve their performance well in advance of their performance review.
Good Feedback is Given Politely
With strong emotions at play on both sides, even seemingly innocent feedback can go wrong. While you always want to maintain a polite and positive tone when providing feedback, avoiding harsh criticism that just focuses on what the employee did wrong, giving effective, actionable feedback can be a more complex process, requiring a nuanced approach.
Focusing on a person’s character rather than on the person’s behaviour that has necessitated swift and meaningful feedback or a lack of clarity or clear guidance on how to change and why change is needed can also thwart the feedback process.
Research has shown that employees whose manager’s feedback was delivered in a more positive manner (even when the feedback was critical), felt inspired to improve or positive about knowing how to do their work better. These employees are more likely to be engaged than employees who felt hurt, and who may actively look for another job.
Feedback that is given compassionately, politely, and positively helps the employee identify any issues that need fixing in a supportive manner that is much more likely to result in improved performance and will make the employee more comfortable receiving and responding to feedback when it’s offered.
Good Feedback is Necessary (Even When it’s Negative)
Many studies have revealed that positive feedback isn’t always the way to get the desired results, and negative feedback isn’t always as bad as we think it is.
We thrive on feedback that is critical of our performance and appreciate it more than no feedback at all. When managers focus on weaknesses rather than ignoring employees, those employees become more engaged.
Most people want to hear feedback on how they can improve, as long as that feedback is delivered well. We tend to find that unfortunately, only a small number of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive is helpful.
This indicates that most managers are failing at providing feedback, or they are not providing good, actionable feedback.
To keep employees engaged and motivated to perform well, it’s essential to let them know what a job well done looks like by regularly providing good feedback.
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