Giving Good Feedback
By Peter McLaughlin
my job except for two times a year when I have to review my eight direct
reports.” Do these words
sound familiar? If you are
like most managers, you would prefer to just do the “real work”
and leave it to the employees to figure out how their performance
stands. Guess what, this
is your “real work.” Feedback
is about getting all employees to perform at their best.
Simple logic says that eight people performing at their best
enhances company productivity far more than one person performing at
his or her best.
problem, according to most managers, is that the education and
training on how to give feedback in most companies is woeful and
inadequate. In addition to
the poor training, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that there
are four levels of generations now working in most companies: the
Millennium group, Gen-Ys, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers – four
generations working side by side, all of whom receive feedback with
studies have shown that exceptional companies have higher levels of
feedback and debate than mediocre companies.
Unfortunately, the stark reality is that most people aren’t
very good at giving or receiving feedback.
This applies both to positive feedback (praise, thanks,
recognition) as well as negative or critical feedback (confronting
poor performance). Many
people could count on one hand the number of meaningful conversations
they’ve had with their manager about their performance and personal
feedback get the short end of the stick?
The first answer is that people think they are too busy to
spend time on it. The
second answer is that feedback territory is fraught with emotional
snares and pitfalls. Whether
in a formal performance review or an informal conversation in the
hallway, you have to possess a rare balance of candor and sensitivity
to tackle difficult issues with a subordinate or co-worker.
When receiving feedback, you have to endure judgmental
conversations that may feel like a personal attack.
feedback conversations are essential.
They force you to face reality, confront the problems that are
causing your team to under perform, and rise out of the swampland to a
higher level of productivity – and a more enjoyable work
environment. With learning
and practice, you can turn your feedback conversations into productive
dialogue that promotes strong relationships and great results, rather
than destructive discussions that lead to mediocrity and frustration.
Don’t say that you’re too busy to give and receive feedback
– as formal Intel CEO Andy Grove says, “It’s one of the highest
leverage activities you can perform.”
seven tips on how to make your feedback experiences the most effective
they can be…and something you actually look forward to.
Permission to Give Feedback: You will not believe the
difference in the level of conversation when you ask permission.
Asking permission to give feedback sets a positive
framework on a situation that could be perceived as negative.
“Can I have permission to give you some feedback?”
“I have a couple ideas…can I share them with you?”
“Do you mind if I give you a suggestion on how to…?”
These are just a few examples.
Set a Tone
of Energy and Optimism: Consciously assume an attitude that
embraces both candor and sensitivity.
If it’s going to be a difficult conversation, plan for it
by gathering all the necessary information and rehearsing what you
want to communicate. If
you go into a feedback session ready to yell at someone, they are
just going to get defensive. Keep
the energy in the room positive, and you will see a much better
Specifics: When sharing feedback, focus on specific situations
and behavior, rather than delving into psychoanalysis.
Talk to your direct report or co-worker about how their
decisions affect other people, and how their actions affect
Appreciation and Say Thank You: Yes, your colleagues and
employees are adults who get paid to do their job, but to believe
that expressing praise isn’t important is to vastly
underestimate the human craving for appreciation.
Let them know you value their time as well as their
willingness to listen to your feedback.
Non-Performance: Don’t wait for the yearly review to tackle
this issue. Non-performance
is something that needs to be confronted as soon as possible.
Take a hard look at reality together, and make it clear
that change is necessary. Get
them talking about how they intend to improve.
Agree on outcomes and timelines.
Set different consequences for different levels of
It’s a Dialogue, Not a Monologue: Ask questions and listen
attentively to answers. Offer
suggestions and support. Jointly
consider options. Pay
attention to the unique talents of those you’re giving feedback
to, and if possible, frame solutions that leverage their
and Energize: Get excited about the changes your direct
reports can make. Give
them examples of how they can improve and show that you’re
supportive of them making these changes for the better.
Some feedback discussions won’t turn out to be fun
encounters. But if
managed skillfully, the majority of feedback conversations can
leave people feeling fired up…rather than beaten up.
feedback is first of all an attitude and can only be made a habit by
constant practice. “The
worst harm you can do,” Jack Welch, says in his book, Winning,
“is not to be candid with someone else.”
Read other articles and learn more
about Peter McLaughlin.
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