Giving feedback is one of the most important tools leaders have to manage their teams. However, when feedback is badly delivered, this can reduce its effectiveness.
As a leader, you’re going to be giving both formal and informal feedback. So here are 10 ways of giving feedback to make sure your team sees the most benefit.
1. When Giving Feedback, Be Specific
You can improve your feedback by using specific examples where you saw a problem or positive event and referring to it directly.
There is no value in telling a team member “You need to work better with your colleagues” if you don’t have any specific examples that you can use to describe why this is the case.
Without being specific, your feedback can easily be ignored.
2. When Giving Feedback, Use the Company Values or Your Team Purpose
Sometimes you’ll come across situations where you feel that someone’s behaviour was not quite right, but you can’t tell what the actual problem is.
A helpful was to resolve this may be to see whether you could use your company values or your team purpose to provide a reference point for your feedback.
For example, if one of your company values is “Teamwork”, then you may be able to use this as a way to highlight poor teamwork behaviour from your team members.
For more about why a Team Purpose is important, read this post: Don’t Have a Clear Team Purpose? Here’s Why You Need One.
Company values or a team purpose can be a good reference point for identifying behaviour that is unwanted and specifically drawing attention to it.
3. When Providing Feedback, Avoid the Compliment Sandwich
You’ve probably heard of the compliment sandwich, where negative feedback is provided between two pieces of good feedback.
“That was a great presentation you gave yesterday, well done.”
“You haven’t hit your sales targets for the last quarter and this is a big problem.”
“That’s a great tie you have on today, where did you get it?”
While this might seem strange, it actually happens quite frequently. People often feel awkward giving people bad feedback, so they try to soften the blow by saying something nice at the same time.
This is less effective because you are mixing positive and negative points. Your team member might leave the meeting feeling quite confused and not really understand that there’s a problem.
4. When Giving Feedback, Don’t Act On Hearsay
In some teams, informal feedback about other teams and people (yes, gossip!) is common. When you’re working in this environment, it’s important to attempt to check any hearsay before you pass it onto anybody.
If you are unable to verify your feedback, 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 information when giving feedback to a team member, if you haven’t observed the specific action or behaviour for yourself.
5. When Providing Feedback, Verify it With Others
If you’re in a team where you don’t always work closely with every team member, it’s important to build relationships with the people who do.
For example, you may lead a team of people who work closely with other business areas, so they are out and about for a lot of the time. You can’t see their behaviour directly, so you need to find ways to monitor their performance.
Otherwise, you won’t be giving accurate feedback. You’ll just be playing a guessing game based on your own limited experiences.
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.
A tool that can help with this is the SBI-BI model, which stands for Situation, Behaviour, Impact.
First, you discuss the specific situation that occurred, and you let the person know the behaviour that caused the problem. Then you include how this behaviour negatively impacted or caused the situation.
Next, you can have a discussion about how an alternative behaviour could have been used instead, to create a more positive impact.
It’s a simple model which can really help frame the conversation and result in a constructive outcome. This structured approach will help you to provide better feedback, and give people 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”.
It’s important to give positive feedback where you can. Otherwise, you run the risk of being a leader who only speaks to your team when something bad has happened.
This is likely to make the whole feedback exercise into a stressful encounter.
8. When Providing Feedback, Be Honest
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.
Remember that your other team members are relying on you to address performance issues in your team, so don’t avoid giving feedback, or you might prolong your team issues.
You can read more about the danger of conflict avoidance in this post: 3 Ways Conflict Avoidance Destroys Leadership. And how to fix it.
9. When Giving Feedback, Stick to the Point
When you’re giving feedback, make sure that it is clear to the other person that this is the purpose of the discussion. If you deliver bad feedback, be prepared for an uncomfortable situation, as some people don’t respond favourably to negative reviews.
It’s OK to frame the situation by saying something like “I have something difficult to discuss with you.” Then, at least the other person can be a little prepared for what is coming.
Don’t waffle and talk about the weather. Get to the point, so you can give the feedback quickly and focus the discussion on what you can improve for next time.
10. When Giving Feedback, Make It Timely
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.
I’ve seen situations where people didn’t know there was an issue until it came to performance review time, which might only happen once a year!
This gives your team members 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.
What are your experiences with giving feedback? Tell me your stories in the comments below!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.