Feedback to an employee is like fuel for a race car. It is not just helpful; it is absolutely necessary for development, engagement and improving performance.
But, remember, feedback and praise are not the same. “Wow, you did a great job, I am so pleased with you” is not feedback. It is praise, which is also important, but does not have the same lasting developmental effect as descriptive feedback.
Feedback is providing identifiable observations on behaviour or thinking which could be positive or negative. If good, discuss specifically what was positive and how it affected the operations or results. If not, then state specifically how the individual could have been more effective.
I asked Jeff Squires, president and CEO of the P.E.I. Brewing Company and well known P.E.I. hockey coach, what processes he uses for feedback. He said; “People inherently want to do right, and too often feedback from managers is only when something bad has happened. Walk your floors and look for the good your people are doing.”
When you start the feedback conversation, make sure employees know it’s not a performance review. It’s simply an opportunity to have a two-way conversation.
The meeting should allow the manager to better understand how the individual is feeling about their job. It should also let the employee express their concerns and ideas freely and without fear.
When suggesting corrective action, get the employee to take responsibility for developing a solution. After suggesting an alternate behaviour or a change in thinking, do not end the meeting without getting a specific commitment on what they are going to do differently.
Here are some ideas for conducting an effective feedback session:
— Be timely: Give your feedback as close to the time the behaviour is shown. Do not give negative feedback in front of their peers.
— Ask for permission: Feedback is best delivered when the other person is in a position to listen to you. Your purpose should be toward their improvement, so don’t put them on the spot (gotcha!) or show the team how smart you are.
— State the observed behaviour; do not pose it as a question. Questions suggest that you are unclear about the situation. Use “I” statements to allow them to see what effect the behaviour had on you.
— Be descriptive: Tell them what you saw them do or say. Give specific examples. Provide enough detail so that the behaviour is well understood and can be acted upon. Address only those behaviours that they have the ability to change.
— Do not exaggerate: Words such as “always, never, everybody, nobody” leave lots of room for argument. Talk about things you know for certain. Base your feedback on facts or data, not on speculation or opinion.
— Be direct: Don’t beat around the bush. Speak from the heart. Help them hear and accept your compliments. Remember, you give feedback because you are concerned about the other person. We usually don’t waste our time on people we do not care about. Constructive feedback helps employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses and ties them to their personal and career aspirations. Feedback encourages employees to establish long-term goals and helps conceptualize a plan for attaining them. It provides an opportunity to make agreements with employees about their role and responsibilities.
Many leaders say they don’t have the time for the slow and tedious work of coaching people. But after a few sessions, they find it takes little or no extra time Leaders who avoid providing feedback are ignoring a powerful tool - its positive impact on culture and performance.
My question for managers this week: Do you have an on-going schedule to provide feedback to each of your employees regarding their behaviours, and how they can improve?
Joseph Sherren, CSP, CSPGlobal, HoF, and bestselling author, is Canada’s Management Effectiveness Expert. He has spoken to more than 4,000 audiences in over 30 countries worldwide. In 2013 was one of 20 professional speakers in the world awarded the CSPGlobal designation.