Tools for Giving Effective Feedback
1. Ask Good Questions:
The first step to determining how much and what kind of feedback you need to give is to assess the person’s level of awareness about the situation. The way we do that is through asking them questions. You can start with something simple, clear, and non-offensive like “I’ve noticed __________ in your department, what are your thoughts on that?” Or “How are you feeling about your work right now?” Standard questions that allow the employee to express their perspective allow us to connect relationally, and figure out whether or not the person is self-aware or if they need help appraising themselves. Your job as the employer or leader is to help people understand the effect that they have on the environment, other employees, and overall flow of the day-to-day processes. Asking questions before diving into feedback helps you to assess the goals and priorities of the employee and adjust the course of the conversation accordingly.
2. Be “Kindly Blunt”
In situations where you may be addressing gaps in a person’s performance or self-concept, tactfulness and honesty are equally important, and should be done in congruence. It might feel awkward or uncomfortable to have to tell someone that they are not performing well in a certain area, especially if they are not aware of it, but it is important to remember that awkward is a choice. Calling out an issue is only as awkward as you make it; if you go into a confrontation feeling empowered and with the goal to empower the receiver, then the outcome will be far more successful for you and them. Learning to embrace those difficult, and somewhat awkward moments can be the difference between success and failure for that person. It also helps us maintain our connection. People can tell when there is something you are not telling them. We are wired to be connected, so when we are not upfront with one another it creates a disconnect between us. If you want to maintain a healthy working relationship between you and your employees, it is important that we address our issues head on.
One of the most important things to keep in mind in the midst of giving feedback is that being honest does not mean being unkind. Being straightforward does not and should not mean being rude to another person. As the leader it is your job to not only facilitate improvement in the work environment, but also to maintain the employee’s level of loyalty to the company. You can do that by developing relationships that make them feel respected and valued, even though they are under your leadership. Part of maintaining that respect is making sure that we are tactful in situations that are confrontational in nature. That often looks as simple as changing the way you say something. Instead of saying, “Your performance in this area has been poor,” you can say, “I think ___ can be an area of improvement for you.” or “You can take more responsibility in this area.” Learning to reframe our criticism in a positive and constructive way can help the employee become aware of their problem areas while still maintaining a healthy working relationship.
3. Call Up
It is important to not leave your feedback conversation on a critical note. The goal is not to simply call out a problem area, it is to empower your employee to do better. If a person knows that you see the potential in them, they are more likely to engage that potential, more so than someone who simply feels that you are not pleased with their work. Find some way to shift the persons perspective towards where they can go in your business as opposed to where they are. Utilize this time to make the person feel like a seen and valued member of the company. You as the employer have a unique position in this person’s professional life - you can choose to use your authority to cut to the “bottom line”, without regard for the employee, or you can use it to create an environment where people feel empowered enough to do their job with excellence. While the first approach may produce results, it will not do much for the long-term health and growth of your company. Company health is directly correlated to how you relate to your employees. So, make sure that in your feedback you are seizing the opportunity to call your employees into greater responsibility.