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The Ingredients of Effective Feedback

Thursday, November 16, 2017

As leaders, our most dreaded job isn’t what you think. We aren’t afraid of public speaking or making a hard decision when the pressure is on. We thrive when the stakes are high, which is why it might come as a surprise that something as ordinary as giving feedback makes us uncomfortable.

It’s no secret that we want to be liked. We don’t want to rock the boat. We want our team members’ approval. But our most compelling desire is to move the company forward through continuous improvement, and this always requires giving timely, honest, and helpful feedback to our teams.

Continuous improvement requires feedback. But how do we give it efficiently, without seeming critical or assuming? How do we diffuse potentially uncomfortable conversations and give people the tools they need to improve?

So many leaders miss this ingredient: Frequency

Frequent feedback is crucial to helping your team receive it with ease. If you wait six months or even a year when performance evaluations roll around, it’s already too late. Timely feedback is delivered at regular intervals to help team members develop. Most companies wait up to six months to give employee feedback, and that’s just too long. Schedule more consistent check-ins with your team, even if it’s bi-monthly so that they will come to expect it. Frequency makes anything less scary when we know what to expect. If you need help in leading effective check-ins we can help. Coachwell has a simple to use online platform that keeps you connected to your team members, see their plans and provide feedback efficiently.

Be specific and factual

A common blunder leaders make while giving feedback is being too general. Make a request for improvement specific and provide lots of examples. Don’t wander into the realm of interpreting events or making assumptions as this can make the other person defensive. Stick with the facts and behaviors or competencies that can be improved. Demonstrate how you want this to look in the future and don’t expect someone to read between the lines.

Stay mission-focused

Relating all feedback on how it impacts and moves the company forward will help your team member to grasp the bigger picture. Map out the company's vision on a macro level, and work downward from there toward department goals, team goals, and eventually individual goals. Help them to see where they fit in the scheme of things. This helps a person realize the impact they have on the big picture. This also makes the feedback feel less personal and more about a company-wide effort.

Encourage people into growth

Before you dive further down your list of things you’d like someone to work on, it’s important to remember that how you conduct giving feedback is extremely important. Always deliver the feedback in a private setting and never in an angry or condescending tone. Criticism will cause a person to shut down and stop hearing or respecting what a leader has to say. Good feedback never requires criticism. Instead of telling someone what they’ve done wrong, show them the future vision and how they can work towards it. And remember, feedback can be positive too! People receive constructive criticism best when there is a preexisting relationship of positive interactions upon which to build.

Timing is everything

Timely and relevant feedback will carry the most impact. If the feedback concerns something that happened six months ago, it will most likely fall on deaf ears. Life is busy, and we shouldn’t wait that long to suggest an improvement. Think of feedback as having an expiration date. Whether it’s a compliment or a correction, use it before too much time has passed. Be strategic on when and how you introduce the feedback. By taking a moment to observe, it’s easier to see whether someone will be open and receptive to the feedback now, or whether they need a moment to gather themselves before a meeting. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes, but if we rush into trying to fix everything too soon, we can do more damage than if we gave space and said something like “When you’re ready, we need to talk about _____.” This respects a person’s space but also clue’s them in on a conversation that will happen in the future.

Feedback is nothing to fear in a team that sees areas of improvement as opportunities and not failures. A leader that shapes the vision of how feedback happens will have a healthier team as a result.

May we all give more excellent feedback,
Coach Greg

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