“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” ~ Ken Blanchard
Giving feedback to your employees can be tricky, depending on who is giving it, who is receiving it, and if the feedback is positive or negative.
Put it all together, and it can be delicate. But rest assured, giving feedback is one of the best ways to have your employees thrive and grow within your organization.
Study after study has shown employees are more engaged when getting regular feedback from their managers and supervisors. And it doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative. While we all would love to get only positive feedback, negative or constructive feedback provides guidance and direction which builds trust and confidence.
It’s important to remember feedback is not an annual or semi-annual review but given on a regular or as needed basis. It’s also important to remember to focus on strengths as much as weaknesses. According to a Gallup Survey, when managers focused on a person’s strengths, 67% were more fully engaged in their work, compared to only 31% when managers focused on weaknesses.
When giving feedback, it’s important to remember:
- Choose the right time and place. You may have heard the old adage “Praise in public, criticize in private”, and in most instances, that holds true. There may be instances when you have to criticize in public, for example when an entire team is not meeting its goals and they must be accountable to each other, but it shouldn’t be the norm. If you have to give negative feedback, it should be as soon as possible after the fact. If emotions are running high, wait until they have settled down, as the message will be lost. On the other hand, waiting a month to discuss the situation loses the learning opportunity.
- Create a safe place to talk. In the past, when I had to give negative feedback to a team member, I asked them to meet me in my office. I later learned it was referred to as “being called to the principal’s office”, and that always caused anxiety for them. I soon moved these discussions to a more neutral place, like a conference room or empty office, which fostered a more open dialogue.
- As always, communication is key. It’s not just the words you use, but how you say them. Both verbal and non-verbal components of communication are important to make sure the message is being heard. Be aware of facial expressions. Put away any distractions and give your undivided attention. Don’t forget to listen.
- Stay positive even if it’s negative. You may have heard about the Oreo way of delivering feedback: start and end with something positive and put the negative in between, and this advice may be good in certain circumstances. If you do it all the time though, your employees may miss the positive waiting for the negative. Engage in a dialogue, don’t make it a monologue.
- Be Specific. The more specific, the better the results. No one likes vague or abstract direction. It’s better to say “I liked your speech but you would make a better connection with a little more eye contact and better hand gestures” than “You need to work on your speech”.
- Have compassion. It’s safe to say that at some point we’ve all had to receive some negative feedback, so try to remember what it was like. A little compassion and empathy can go a long way towards earning the trust for more mentoring in the future.
Giving feedback can have a powerful and productive effect. When done correctly, it increases employee engagement, builds trust and confidence, and mentors the next set of leaders to treat their employees the same way. It’s a win-win for everyone.