Giving feedback is one of the essential components of establishing credibility and trust with your team, yet it’s often overlooked as an essential component in management training programs.I’ve recently read several blogs and articles on feedback: when to give it, what to say, how important it is to give praise, how to deliver criticism, what to do when it doesn’t work, why it’s so difficult to give (whether it’s good or bad), and the list goes on... The bottom line is that for most new managers, giving feedback is difficult and it is often avoided because it’s uncomfortable. It’s especially difficult for those who have been promoted into a leadership role and are now managing people who used to be peers.
Other topics, such as how to foster employee engagement, set goals, increase productivity, and motivate the team, tend to be emphasized over how to have feedback conversations. Because new managers have very little exposure to how to effectively give feedback, they tend to side-step it.
When we ask why they avoid it, most managers share the same answers:
- “It’s really uncomfortable.”
- “I’m afraid their response will be negative and they’ll get defensive.”
- “I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
- “I know they’re trying really hard.”
- “They’re really smart and they’ll eventually get it when they have more time on the job.”
Regardless, giving feedback is one of the most important growth opportunities that employees can have. Feedback not only informs employees about areas they can improve in, but it also increases their motivation and engagement. By putting off giving feedback, you are limiting the potential growth that an individual can have.
So how do you have valuable feedback conversations that are well received and lead to lasting change?
- Give feedback in a timely manner, immediately if possible.
We call this “Point Easy.” Point Easy feedback is given in the moment, immediately following an action that needs adjustment. It should be given on the first occurrence. When given this way, it comes across as guidance, rather than criticism. It’s helpful, and actually kind, because it provides quality real-time observation that helps improve performance and create more successful outcomes.
- Initiate the conversation by starting with facts.
Facts are mutually observable and indisputable. Facts are non-emotional. If you find yourself arguing over facts, they are not facts. They are opinions and/or explanations. Before moving on, make sure you agree on the facts.
- Get to the “Why.”
Engage them in “Why” it matters. Share the thinking behind what you’re asking of them so that they have a context for the feedback and can align with its purpose.
- Encourage dialogue.
Ask for their perspective. Give the big picture and then ask them to share with you what they believe the ripple effect is. If you want them to really get it, to learn from your guidance, don’t tell them what the after-effect is, but encourage them to think about how their actions impact others. If it comes directly from them, it will create a greater understanding and reinforce your feedback with deeper learning.
Giving feedback can be really hard. But it doesn’t have to be. Leaders often make the assumption that employees don’t want it and will resist it. In reality, most people crave it; people want to do a good job and want to be recognized and acknowledged for the value they contribute.
As a leader, if we can shift our resistance to giving direct feedback, and transform our discomfort into compassion, feedback can be a generous gift. At one time or another, over the course of our career, haven’t we all benefited from guidance that was given in a kind-hearted way intended to improve our performance and enhance our success?