3 Tips for Leaders: How to Improve Your Feedback

Nov 10 , 2016

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When was the last time you gave constructive feedback to one of your employees? Have you ever felt like you’re reaching out to them with your words of encouragement? Did they change their work and behavior after listening to you?

Ah, that feedback. It’s one of your main responsibilities as a leader. You have to provide it, so your employees will understand their strengths and weaknesses, and they will get better at what they do. It’s a pressuring responsibility, though.

  • When you need to give credit for a job well done, you don’t want your feedback to lead to extreme self-confidence and arrogance.
  • When criticism is on the menu, you must take care with the way you express it. Instead of making an employee feel bad, you need to inspire them to get better.

Where’s the balance? How can you improve the feedback you give? Try something like this:

 

1.Clarify your purpose. Why are you giving feedback?

You invite an employee to your office. They may come with a smile on their face, but you know they are tense. They don’t know what to expect, so they are getting more and more stressed as you carry on with your long introduction.

Instead of introducing them to the feedback with something like:

“So, about the last project we did… You were in charge of public relations, and your responsibilities involved marketing and social media management.”

Okay, okay, cut to the chase. They know what their responsibilities were, and they know what they did. Start with something like this:

“I called you in to talk about the job you did on this project. The point is for both of us to understand the strengths and weaknesses, and do something even better in future…”

Be clear on the goal of feedback, and always state it right from the start. It’s always about bringing changes and improvements in the worker’s behavior.

 

2. Hear them out

What’s the worst thing you could expect from an employee who gets feedback? Defensive attitude. People value their own work. If you criticize it, they will try to defend it. The person will either try to explain their point of view, or they will act like they are listening to you, but you’ll keep seeing the anger in their face.

If your employee has something to say, hear them out. Maybe the situation was different from the way you perceive it. Maybe this person sitting in front of you wasn’t fully responsible for the mistakes. Maybe they had good intentions, so you’ll both have to discover what went wrong.

If they are not talking, but you can notice the defensive attitude on their face, ask: “Do you agree we can do things differently? Do you think my suggestions are okay? What do you suggest as a solution?”

Remember: feedback is not a one-way presentation of opinions. It has to come in the form of a conversation.

 

3. Timing is everything!

“I don’t like the job you did with this project. You made the same mistakes last time.”

Wait, what? Why didn’t you tell them last time? Remember: the sooner you give your feedback, the better for everyone. First of all, your employees don’t like waiting for hours or days just to find out what you think about the work they did. Untimely feedback is a great problem that leads to ineffective leadership.

Give feedback as frequently as possible. You don’t have to invite employees into your office each time, but you can give brief, clear statements that will serve as affirmation, criticism, or guidelines. When you value their performance on an ongoing basis, they will do a better job.

 

Clear, timely feedback that leaves space for two-way conversation – that’s the recipe for success. Here are the most important takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Provide very specific feedback and always explain why the employee needs to make changes in their behavior. Clarify the goal!
  • Get their opinion. If they don’t agree with your feedback, hear them out.
  • Your feedback should closely tie to the behavior in question. It’s more powerful when you provide it as soon as possible.

Now, take a deep breath. Are you ready to give some feedback today?

 

Editor’s note: Beyond delivering content internally and by our worldwide network of assessment distributors, we offer opportunities to those who are interested in examining how assessment and talent management solutions impact our decision-making. The opinions expressed herein are the author’s.

Image source: Tim Gouw via Pexels.com 

About the Author

Julie Petersen