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The Do’s and Don’ts of Giving Feedback
|Copyright 2005 Inez Ng
Being able to give effective feedback is not just a good skill to possess in business, it is a great life skill to have. Because when you are masterful at giving feedback, not only can you help your employees to sustain continuously improving performance, you can also improve the performance of the baseball team you coach, the cleaning lady at home, or the performance of your own children on completing their chores. Any person’s performance in any activity can be positively impacted by effective feedback. Isn’t that a powerful skill to have? Wouldn’t you want to be a master at giving really useful and impactful feedback?
The good news is that it is not difficult to be good at giving feedback. It does take some effort and practice. But it is definitely a skill that can be learned. So, to get you started, here are the Do’s and Don’ts of giving feedback.
Let’s start with the Do’s:
Be Timely: in order for feedback to be effective, you need to act quickly. If months have gone by before you bring up an incident, the person receiving the feedback will interpret your delay to imply that it couldn’t have been that important, and the effect of the feedback is greatly diminished.
Be Specific: talk about your feedback in very direct and specific terms (“I noticed there were several calculation errors in last month’s report”). If you are vague (“your work is unacceptable”), how can you get the message across? Focus on the action and the results. Be very factual in your discussion.
Be Open and Offer Suggestions: if the objective of your feedback discussion is to produce an improvement of performance, then come equipped with suggestions (again be specific) on what the person can do to affect that change. Be open to their perspective and be willing to discuss how they see that situation. Enroll them in coming up with a solution that they can buy into. If you don’t get buy-in, change will not happen.
Create the right environment: feedback is best done in person, and in a private setting. In a business setting, arrange a time and place for your discussion. Don’t just catch people on the fly and throw a few comments their way as they are heading down the hallway and expect your comments to have any impact.
Check for understanding and buy-in: if the feedback discussion is about a performance issue, make sure you check-in on how your comments have landed with the person. Establish some sort of accountability to verify their buy-in. For example, if you have an employee who constantly misses deadlines. During the discussion, ask for a commitment that he will meet all deadlines for the next quarter. Make sure that the commitment is specific, and not something vague like: “I’ll do a better job of meeting deadlines next quarter.”
And now for the Don’ts:
Don’t Make it personal: there is a difference between giving feedback and criticizing. Do not make it personal. Don’t interpret actions (showing up late) and pass judgment on the person (he is slacker and isn’t truly dedicated to this job). Criticism destroys relationships. If your employee feels like he is being attacked, he is not going to be very open to hear what you have to say, he will immediately become defensive, and your job becomes much harder. Focus the discussion on the action, not the person. Make your employee feel that he is being supported, even if his performance is not up to standard.
Don’t Only give feedback when there’s a problem: if you’re their leader, people need to know where they stand with you. If you have a great employee who always exceeds your expectations, take the time to give him just as much feedback as your biggest challenge. As a matter of fact, make it a point to give more positive feedback comments than “constructive” ones with every person. You’ll be amazed at how much more motivated your employees will become with consistent positive reinforcement.
Don’t Address multiple issues in one discussion: your employee will go into overload and you will lose the impact of the discussion. If there are multiple issues, have different discussions and just concentrate on addressing them one at a time.
So there you have it, a short list of Do’s and Don’ts you can apply to whatever feedback you need to give. Remember, most people, even your rebellious teenager, want to do a good job and to please. They do need some clues as to how they are doing and what they need to change. So master the art of feedback and you can really help each other.
About the author:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leadership Coach Inez Ng works with professionals and entrepreneurs to produce positive results quickly. While focusing on specific areas, her coaching positively impacts all areas of her clients’ lives. Learn more about coaching with Inez at http://www.RealizationsUnltd.com
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