Quality feedback is not all about negative criticisms. As with work and life, there should be a balance between praise and constructive input. Employees no matter how bad they perform have strengths that may be overlooked. Likewise, people performing at their peak still have room for improvement.
By learning how to give quality feedback, you are equipping yourself with a business communication skill that fosters individual growth, a healthy work environment, and the advancement of overall performance.
To provide quality feedback, first, let’s look at the elements of good feedback.
Be specific when giving praise. Be generous with words, but don’t go overboard. Note the time and situation when you saw the effort or accomplishment. Tell the employee how it impacts people or the organization. Also, encourage them to continue to excel.
Whenever possible, let others hear it.
Instead of the typical “Great job (Name)!”
You can do better with, “I think you did a great job yesterday at the conference room, (Name). I saw how you handled their objections and I loved how you brought it around. If you keep this up, they will continue to listen to you. Congratulations!”
Good feedback acknowledges the specific behavior that brought results. It talks about the effect of the behavior and how it contributed to the achievement of a goal.
Did you know that you can give constructive input without providing a solution to a problem? It is a fact that at times, we may not be the best person to give the solution to a particular problem even if we notice the issue. By asking questions, it encourages reflection and self-exploration.
For instance, instead of saying, “I don’t think that’s the right way to fix (the problem),” why not ask, “Do you think there’s another way around (fixing the problem)? I believe you are the best person for this. Go ahead and send me your ideas.”
By encouraging them to reflect, they can own the solution and feel empowered when the problem is fixed.
In the words of Dr. Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Look at the big picture. Understand why they did what they did. Establish trust by communicating that you understand them first. Then be clear about why you’re giving them feedback. Tie it to the values of the organization and express your intention to help them succeed.
For instance, one might easily say, ”You're always late to meetings," without even digging a little deeper into why that’s happening. Would it be more empathetic if you start with, "I'm worried, what's going on, (name)? This is the 4th time you were late for the meeting. I’m asking because I value everybody’s time and I was wondering what’s holding you up? Is there something you’re going through?”
A statement like that can define the tone of the conversation from “I don’t care what you’re going through. You better shape up or ship out.” into “I’m on your side. What’s happening? How can we fix this?”
Even the employees performing at their peak have room for improvement, so make constructive criticism a positive message in the workplace. Tell employees what can be improved upon, provide recommendations, and challenge them to perform at their best. Tie these recommendations to their goals and the goals of the organization.
Take for example a newly hired supervisor who is bringing a bad habit from his previous job. Instead of saying right off the bat, "This is not how we do things around here." You can say, ”Yesterday at the toolbox meeting, I cannot help but notice the way you instructed your staff, which appears to me as unprofessional. I learned from experience that if you (recommendation 1) or (recommendation 2), you may find it easier to lead them. What do you think? Can I count on you to give it a try and let me know how it went?”
At the start and end of the feedback, ask the employee for their feedback and perspective. It should leave the employee with a greater sense of understanding and resolution. Remember, every feedback session is a dialogue, not a monologue.
Harvard Business Review recommends asking hero questions that highlight their strengths and achievements. You can ask questions like:
What do you think of (mention a scenario)?
How does that sound to you?
Can you suggest a better way?
What have you learned about yourself while working on this task?
Which of your strengths have helped you on this project?
There may be times when both of you agree to disagree. And that’s ok. That’s a start. The dialogue can continue on another day.
Bear in mind that giving feedback is a skill, so you need preparation and practice if you’re not used to it.
Before giving feedback:
Note when and where the activity/issue happened.
In your mind, describe what happened and how it impacts the workplace, the team and the concerned employee.
Think about your compliments (make them count) or recommendations (for constructive criticisms).
Allot enough time for dialogue.
Giving feedback that is well received is built upon good relationships between people. You don’t need to wait for the annual evaluation to give your employees feedback. Simple feedback can be given weekly or even daily, especially when they help you and the employee achieve the desired outcome. Feedback is an ongoing process to create a culture of learning and growth in the company.