How To Give Good Feedback: 11 Simple Rules
Giving feedback isn’t just a great way to help employees around you perform better. If done properly, it will also make them feel better! Read the 12 simple rules below on how to provide good feedback to a team, employees or fellow workers.
Simple Rule 1: Give feedback the time it deserves. Great feedback isn’t shouted to an employee across the carpark at the end of the day. Try to dedicate time for the sole purpose of giving feedback, whether it’s just a minute or part of a formal meeting. Properly announce your intentions by asking, “I would like to give you some feedback on X, would that be OK?”.
Simple Rule 2: Be Honest. The purpose of giving feedback, (whether positive or constructive), is to align the persons perception of their behaviour with reality. If your idea of feedback is to spoon feed half-truths in an attempt to shift their behaviour to suit your ends, you may be only making things worse.
Simple Rule 3: Use the ‘compliment sandwich’ or more exotic varieties. A compliment sandwich is where you offer a compliment followed by a constructive point, and closed with a further positive feedback point. The theory is that this approach will help the conversation end on a positive note. However a word of warning to those dealing with savvy employees & especially middle management (who may use this technique themselves); don’t strictly stick to this exact recipe because it is a very transparent strategy. If an employee actively recognises you are using a compliment sandwich, they may choose to ignore the positive comments in the belief that the ‘true’ purpose of the conversation is for you to communicate the constructive point, and this may cause them to react defensively.
Simple Rule 4: Be Specific In Giving Feedback. Try to use phrases such as ‘You were effective when you…” or “You could’ve been more effective when you…”. The focus on specific actions not only helps to avoid employees taking it personally, but also allows the feedback to be more actionable. Generic feedback such as ‘Good Job!’ won’t offer your collegue any useful advice on which elements of their performance created the greatest value, and therefore won’t provide the opportunity for them to make a note to repeat the positive behaviour; conversely it may encourage them to continue performing badly in some areas.
Simple Rule 5: Feedback doesn’t always require a constructive element. Some leaders can just go too far the other way, and almost impose a rule that they should include at least one piece of constructive feedback when giving pointers to employees. When the situation allows it, don’t hesistate in simply delivering a sincere list of compliments and really putting a smile on someones face!
Simple Rule 6: Sculpt feedback to suit the receiver. Some people are naturally better at receiving feedback than others. When you suspect feedback will be taken relatively personally, ensure you follow these 11 Simple Rules more carefully.
Simple Rule 7: Be as direct as possible in talking about how the feedback should be received. Transparency is key in giving excellent feedback. If you are worried about the employee focusing excessively on one constructive point – be direct and tell them that you do not want them to do so.
Simple Rule 8: Focus on the behaviour, not the impression you had of it. The difference between an employees behaviour and intentions can be explained in the following example:
Imagine that a manager tells an employee that they have noticed the employee is ‘looking disorganised and disinterested lately’. This is actually a comment about the managers perception, or ‘impression’ of the employee rather than concrete behaviours. In reality, this impression may have been formed because of personal issues effecting the employee at home, or even because the manager had not been paying attention in the past week. This approach to feedback could leave the employee feeling alienated, and confused as to how the manager wishes to see improvement. If however, the manager had specifically referred to the employee answering the phone in a less positive manner than normal, then this is a behaviour that the employee and manager could have a clear discussion about. This would allow them to get to the bottom of the reasons behind it quickly and respectfully.
Simple Rule 9: Only Provide Constructive Feedback on Something the Employee can Change. If an employee cannot do a thing about your point of criticism, the feedback will only serve to hurt their feelings and cause resentment.
Simple Rule 10: Avoid sounding patronising by stopping short of giving advice. When giving feedback to employees, it is often easy (and advisable) to be vocal about how you think the employee could correct their undesirable behaviour. This isn’t always recommended in cases where the feedback recipient is ranked above you, or where they normally react very defensively to feedback. If you wish to avoid sounding condescending, then provide an observation about their behaviour and leave them to create the solution. If no action has been taken after an agreed period of time, then more direct measures could be taken.
Simple Rule 11: Ensure Feedback Is Timely. Managers often see feedback as a pointless and bureacratic annual exercise. I would like to stress that this is not proper feedback, this is merely a pencil pushing exercise that will indeed have little effect on behaviour. Good feedback is provided within hours or days of the behaviour being performed, and is discussed in person if possible.
At the end of the day, you don’t need to an official leadership training programme to teach you feedback skills. Leadership courses can impart these leadership skills, but you can find leadership advice on that topic and other leadership and management topics all and more on this blog!