The majority of managers hate to give constructive feedback. And yet most employees want feedback aimed at improving how they work. They want to be told how they are doing, what’s working and what’s not. Many want to know what’s next for development and growth.
As a leader, you are often their catalyst for change. You are the one who helps them attain their goals and live up to their potential. Thus, the information you provide must be useful. And it must be delivered such that your employees feel respected and supported.
The key is to provide feedback honestly and constructively. You want your employees to find your feedback session fair and supportive. To that end, consider the following for tips:
4 Points to Consider When Giving Constructive Feedback
- Be timely
- Make it specific (behavior and not personal traits)
- Open a two-way dialog
- Use it to teach and coach
1. Be timely. Providing feedback and coaching is a continuous processes. As such, people should receive your feedback as close as possible to occurrences of the behavior. This way the specifics are fresh in their minds, and opportunities are given to address behaviors right away.
3. Make it specific. Rather than using vague generalizations such “more strategic thinking” or “a greater sense of urgency,” Katrina C. Johnson, PhD suggests drilling down into exactly what you mean and what you will do to coach that. Focus on behaviors, not the person and personal traits. Describe behaviors in exact terms. Below are questions that help you to identify specifics. Each set of questions is followed by examples to illustrate behaviors that might be observed with “overly defensive.”
- Describe what you see (and want to see more of) – What is the person physically doing? What does the person look like?
- Crosses arms
- Arrives late to staff meetings
- Works independently without pausing to check course
- Describe what you hear (and want to hear more of) – What words are used? What tone is used?
- Breaths a big sigh of exasperation
- Uses “I thought I had already explained that. What don’t you get?”
- Describe the context (and why the context matters) – With whom does the behavior occur? Where does it occur?
- Occurs primarily with peers when they ask clarifying questions
3. Open a two-way dialog. Let your employees know you “have their backs.” You want them to succeed. Open the session by naming the topic (i.e., overly defensive) and get curious about what’s going on. Rather than telling and directing, explore behaviors with benign questions and share the specifics you have noted. Solicit input and listen. Avoid “pushing” corrective actions. Instead, identify strategies for change and methods for tracking together. Partner for success.
4. Use it to teach and coach. Done correctly, providing feedback presents an opportunity for learning. With the desired behaviors clear and agreed upon, you now step into the helping people acquire them.
Think of constructive feedback as part of the process for teaching and coaching your employees. Shifting your mindset from “correcting” to “developing” along with utilizing these four steps will help you have more effective feedback sessions.
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