Giving feedback is one of the most important tools managers have to lead their teams. However, feedback is often badly delivered and it can lose its effect.
As a leader, you’re going to be giving feedback whether it’s formal or informal. Here are 10 ways of giving feedback to make sure your team gets the most benefit.
1. When giving feedback, be specific
You can improve your feedback by using specific examples where you saw an issue or positive event and referring to them directly. There is no point telling a team member “you are difficult to work with” if you don’t have any evidence or examples.
Without being specific, your feedback isn’t really believable.
2. When giving feedback use the company values
Sometimes you’ll come across situations where you feel that someone did something that was “off”, but you can’t tell what the actual problem is. One way to attempt to solve this is to see whether your company values can be used as a reference for the feedback.
Company values can sometimes be a good reference point for identifying behaviour that is unwanted and highlighting it.
3. When giving feedback, avoid the “compliment sandwich”
You’ve probably heard of the compliment sandwich, where a bad piece of feedback is positioned between two pieces of good feedback.
This can be less effective because you are using two positives to one negative. This can have the effect of watering down bad feedback. Your team member simply might not understand what the problem is.
They’ll come out of the meeting thinking “that wasn’t so bad!” Sometimes it’s better just to deliver bad feedback and book another time for the good feedback.
4. When giving feedback, don’t pass on gossip
In some teams, informal feedback about other teams and people (yes, gossip!) is common. When you’re working in one of these places, it’s important to attempt to verify any hearsay that you are about to pass onto somebody.
If you are unable to verify it, don’t say anything, because it could be someone simply playing politics to get what they want.
In other words, be very careful if you are using somebody else’s words when giving feedback to a team member.
5. When giving feedback, verify it with other people
If you’re in a team where you can’t always work closely with the person you are giving feedback to, it’s important to keep in contact with the people who do work closely with them. Otherwise, you won’t be giving accurate feedback. You’d just be playing a guessing game based on your own limited experience.
This is particularly useful if you lead a team of people who work with other business areas. It is always a great idea to keep in contact with other people that deal with your team so you get an idea of how your team is performing.
6. When giving feedback, make sure there are outcomes
There is no point in giving feedback that has no outcome. You need to ensure that the feedback receiver knows how they can take steps to improve their performance.
A model that can help do this is the Situation-Behaviour-Impact-Alternate Behaviour-Alternative Impact model or SBI-BI. It is a structured approach that calls out specific behaviour and the impact that was caused.
Then it allows you to work with the feedback receiver to determine an alternative behaviour that may be more appropriate. This gives the receiver something to work on for next time.
7. When giving feedback, consider the good and the bad
Some people don’t deliver any news unless it’s bad news. If your team is great at something, it’s important not to say “well that’s just called doing your job”.
This is a poor attitude – it’s important to give positive feedback where you can rather than making the whole feedback exercise into a stressful encounter. Don’t just make up good feedback to deliver a compliment sandwich though!
8. When giving feedback, be honest
Come on, say what you mean. Don’t dance around the issue or fail to deliver bad feedback. People need feedback to improve and to understand how people are perceiving them.
It’s definitely harder to deliver bad feedback to people more senior than you, but I’ve managed to do it successfully from time to time. The key is to appear constructive rather than spiteful.
9. When giving feedback, stay focused
When you’re giving feedback, make sure that it is clear to all people that this is the purpose of the meeting. If you deliver bad feedback, be prepared for an uncomfortable situation, as some people don’t respond favourably to negative reviews.
Sometimes people may respond and give your negative feedback of your own at the same time. This is OK. But it’s important to make sure it’s clear that this session is about them, not you. You can talk about your own feedback later.
10. When giving feedback, do it at the right time
Don’t wait until it’s too late for your team to act on your feedback. As soon as you are aware of it, you should really deliver it. This gives your team a chance to improve their performance, rather than having no idea and hearing about it months later.
This is the same with positive feedback. If you hold onto it for too long, the person may not even have known they were doing well. They might even have felt like they were underperforming because of the lack of feedback. It has to be timely.
Feedback is a very important tool for leaders. It’s one of the best ways of guiding your team to improve their performance. Good luck in delivering your effective feedback!