We all give feedback several times a day. It could be saying to the barista that your morning coffee was perfect or it could be telling your partner that they look great in their new outfit; whatever it is, it has an impact.
In the workplace, that impact could be the difference between seeing a distinct rise in efficiency from your staff and seeing them become reclusive within their role, carrying out only the minimum expected of them.
Delivering feedback is not something that's overly difficult to do. What is difficult to do is deliver feedback that makes your employees feel worthwhile and makes them want to not simply continue working in their role, but to develop – so they can see more success both as individuals and for the organisation as a whole.
So here we take a look at five of the key steps to delivering great feedback – and getting thanked for it.
(1) Always, always, always listen intently
The basis of any good feedback should be to listen. This makes sure you understand your employee's actions rather than simply judging them.
(2) Don't be afraid to offer your personal opinion
Everyone has an opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion on whatever matter it is, but it's important that when you're giving feedback you don't provide an opinion that is either unjustifiable or done so in a way that could be considered to be fact.
For example, a member of staff doesn't write a lot of notes during meetings. Your opinion may be that you don't think they’ll be able to remember everything and therefore may struggle to act upon all of the action points discussed.
Delivering this in a way such as – "You only seem to make a few lines of notes during meetings. To me, that shows disorganisation and it seems like you're going to struggle to deliver what's expected of you afterwards" – is going to do nothing but make the person receiving the feedback feel angry and possibly unwilling to change.
However, deliver the feedback by saying – "I notice that you don’t take a lot of notes during meetings. This isn't something I could do. It concerns me slightly that you may need to refer to what's been said in the meeting at a later stage, but your notes might not cover it. Does this concern you?" – and although it gets the same point across, it puts the concern in the employee's hands.
It will make them think. Perhaps they haven't noticed they don't make a lot of notes and maybe it will prompt them to consider making more. Or there's every possibility that they have their own method of note taking that they can share with you, which is more effective than your own.
Remember: you may not be right and, as in point (1), you need to be certain you listen to your employees fully before you start delivering any type of feedback.
(3) Never make it personal
When providing feedback as part of an organisation, you need to remember that you're doing so in a professional capacity and you should never comment on anyone's personality being good or bad.
However, it can be acceptable to deliver feedback that is linked to a personality trait, if you feel it is impacting on their role and you can associate it with a certain part of their work.
If you have an employee who has a particularly messy work area, for instance, rather than saying "You're such a disorganised person" you would be better off saying "I've noticed a few pieces of work have gone missing lately on your desk. Do you think there's something we could potentially do to stop this happening?"
It highlights the issue and gives an indication of your thoughts, but it also makes the employee consider the options and gives them the opportunity to provide a solution.
(4) Be sure to offer praise at the same time as criticism
When we feedback to our staff, we naturally tend to focus on the negative aspects, as we want them to improve in those areas. However, a meeting that simply feeds back on less positive parts of an employee's work is going to affect their morale.
Instead, find the positive points and try to focus on those too. You of course shouldn't forget about where the employee could improve, but you should intersperse these points with the more positive ones to ensure that the employee's confidence, satisfaction and response levels remain high.
(5) Provide structure for moving forward
One of the most common problems seen when delivering feedback is a lack of structure for the future; a missing action plan or a half-completed progression report.
You should be willing to give constructive criticism to your staff, but you should not simply give feedback and then walk away.
You've told the employee where you feel they could potentially improve and they've accepted it, but have you actually explained how they could improve? What about when they should improve by? How will you measure their improvement?
As humans, we're creatures of habit and we all crave structure of some sort. If we don't get it when it comes to feedback and development, we generally feel unimportant and unwilling to put into practice what has been suggested.
Be provided with structure for moving forward, however, and we feel positive, enthused and happy to try to develop and succeed.
Delivering great feedback isn't easy – but it doesn’t have to be difficult either.
You need to listen to your staff and not be afraid to offer your own opinion. You should never make your comments personal, always offer praise and be sure to provide suggestions on how best to move forward – and only if you follow these five points should you feel confident in being able to deliver feedback that is not only great, but which your employees thank you for.
Let us know about your own experiences. What are your 'top tips' on giving feedback? Leave us a comment below.
[Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]