The Power Of Constructive Feedback In The Workplace
The role of a manager is to provide feedback, coaching, guidance, supervision and retain high performing employees. Within most organizations, people management is only one component of the role of a leader, with countless other core areas of accountability to juggle on a daily basis. For this reason, amongst others, the bulk of feedback is delivered to employees during incremental performance reviews.
Typically, these reviews are conducted on an annual or semiannual basis, and are a deep dive into accomplishments, areas of improvement and new or expanding responsibilities.
The reality is that in order to enable employees to be successful, ongoing, action driven and reactive feedback is a necessity. The topic of feedback can be considered a controversial one, often times with negative connotations and a great deal of uncertainty – for example, when is the right time to give feedback? Should positive or negative feedback be delivered? How should a manager handle a situation in which a direct report it is not receptive to feedback? Based on the aforementioned concerns, often times both positive and constructive feedback are never brought to the attention of the employee.
Employees Want Feedback
It is important to understand that the overwhelming majority of employees seek out and desire feedback; it has been proven that most professionals that receive feedback are in fact more productive and engaged. This can be attributed to a multitude of factors, including the fact that several feel that an investment is being made in their development. Whether constructive or positive, employees need to understand the weight of their contributions or lack thereof.
While the generalizations presented above are telling, it is also important to have some direct discussions with team members regarding feedback. There are individuals, some of which may be on your team, that do not receive feedback well. Regardless of the level of receptivity, feedback should be delivered as necessary, therefore you may have to engage in conversations regarding the value, benefits and appropriate courses of action upon receipt of feedback.
Solicit insights from your direct reports regarding some of their thoughts, and address preconceived or inaccurate notions if applicable. Be sure to shape these conversations to emphasize the fact that feedback can be both positive and constructive, but should always lead to future action.
Provide Feedback on the Spot
A critical mistake is to hold onto feedback until annual performance reviews; the employee could have had ample time to resolve or address the issue, and likely has repeated the behavior several times. It is important that employees received feedback as quickly as possible.
While it certainly is not appropriate to comment on performance moments after your employees fumbles during a major presentation, it is necessary to address it in a private meeting the following day.
Constructive feedback should be delivered in a genuine way. Chances are that the employee is already aware of the area of improvement, so start off the conversation by asking what his or her thoughts were regarding the specific scenario or instance. If your perception varies significantly from that of your direct report, share what you observed and ask if he or she understands why this is an area of improvement.
Be sure to navigate this conversation in a way that reinforces your role as both a leader and a source of support. Offer suggestions and ongoing advisement in order to remedy the issue, while emphasizing the fact that constructive feedback is an opportunity to grow and develop.
On the other hand, if the employee delivered the presentation in an articulate manner, resulting in a significant impact be sure to also share that feedback. Positive feedback can be motivating to some and embarrassing to others, so be sure to provide feedback in the manner that resonates best with the employee’s comfort level.
You may have a direct report who enjoys being in the spotlight, while another is very uncomfortable with public recognition. Either way, recognizing the value and impact of an employee often times boosts engagement, so be sure to find an appropriate way to praise employees.
Avoid the Compliment Sandwich
When delivering constructive feedback, no matter how critical and harsh it may be, it is important to be very direct and focus on the facts. Clearly state what you observed, why the impacts are of concern, and what you suggest to address the issue. In an attempt to maintain morale, many managers will resort to the compliment sandwich – positive feedback, followed by constructive feedback and then another round of praise.
Not only does this minimize the impact of the message around the constructive feedback, it also may require inventing some positive things to share. It is possible, with authenticity, compassion and care, to deliver constructive feedback that demonstrates your commitment to supporting the employee and results in significant performance improvement.
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