Knowing how to provide feedback to employees is a MUST HAVE skill in being a good people manager!
When well done, it builds solid relationships based on candor and integrity. On the other hand, poorly expressed feedback will demotivate others and make for bad business and strained relationships.
Feedback is a stated observation/perception of another’s conduct or performance. It should be given with the same introspection and care in which it is to be received.
The message must be delivered in a thoughtful and well balanced manner (you control this) and received in a similar mature way (you don’t control this). Consider that the ‘real’ message received is based on 3 factors: 7% on what is said; secondly, 43% on how it is delivered; and thirdly, 50% on body language as interpreted by the recipient. These guidelines will help you give proper feedback:
• Get the facts – first, do your homework. Ask questions to get the facts, get the right facts and get the facts right. Be open to new information, for, if you have partial information you will predictably give inaccurate feedback. You will then look bad.
• Know who you are dealing with – Assess how the other person will react and tailor your message and method of delivery to that person. Generally, give positives in public and negatives in private; however, break this guideline if the person gets embarrassed easily and prefers these types of conversations to be done privately.
• Give them the feedback FIRST – The recipient of feedback deserves respect and courtesy – especially if the feedback is about something that went wrong. If you talk about someone behind their back and then, if they hear gossip from another person, you become the executive ‘weasel’ whose leadership role has now been compromised.
• Do it face-to-face – Particularly if feedback deals with criticism, mature adults deal with tough situations face-to-face, not by impersonal emails or by phone. Give it in person – this also lets you see the person’s reaction, thereby ensuring that the appropriate message has been received.
• Do it fast – People affected by important information need to hear it quickly – whether it is good or bad news. Few things are worse that waiting in suspense and feeling you are being controlled by someone. Once all facts are on the table, people are more relaxed and it is easier to deal with virtually any situation.
• Deliver the message in balance – Try to sandwich the positive and negative messages. This is all about balance, not manipulation, e.g., you could discuss a person’s positive intentions, critique a specific situation that did not work out, and then express confidence that you believe in them and that you see they are motivated to get better results next time.
• Do it with tact – Be direct and be sensitive. Give feedback on a person’s actions/issues, not on their personality. Never assault their personality. If you need inspiration for this, think of your own worst experience, that is, when you were on the receiving end of a poorly delivered feedback that didn’t sit well with you.
• Keep cool – Discuss things professionally. If you find yourself being hooked into a mental or emotional battle, ask questions for clarification. Or, if someone is ‘losing it’, take a breather. Buy some time – things said in anger rarely turn out positively.
There are certain truths that endure: People want to be important, want to matter and be valuable. They crave self-esteem. By what people say and do, one message they regularly deliver is: “… notice me … I count! …”.
Effective feedback is a gift that will make most people in most companies more successful. While your gift to them costs you just a little time, recipients say that receiving it is priceless!