(Guest post by Kelly Smith)
I’ve met many managers who cringe at the mention of giving feedback. Naturally, most of them are trained to lead their teams, boost their productivity or manage the available resources in an efficient manner. They rarely ever have a strategy in place for giving constructive feedback.
Let’s make one thing clear – without constructive feedback, there can be no real improvement in employee output and productivity. When I spot someone going about their work in the wrong way or making the same mistakes over and over again, it’s clearly in my best interest to do something about it – and that can only be done by delivering meaningful feedback.
Some managers like to rely on annual reviews, convinced that giving feedback once a year is enough. Well, what about the other 364 days? Employees are busy working every day, and you should never leave them to their own devices. Here are some strategies I’ve developed over time that help my team to grow and become even more productive.
1. The key to constructive feedback
Before I move to the feedback itself, it’s important to make this point clear. Why should we give feedback at all? Who gains from this feedback – my team or me? What is the underlying motivation behind me giving this feedback? Do I give it to make an employee correct their mistake or complete their tasks according to my own vision of how it should be done?
The truth is that the power of feedback is rooted in its ability to motivate. If you think about it for a moment, we’re most motivated when the feeling comes from the inside – if we feel that something is worth the trouble, we’re more motivated to put a little extra effort in achieving it. External motivations like the expectations of managers or even worse, a fear of being fired, never have this kind of power.
I learned that the best kind of feedback is based on a genuine intention for my team to grow and develop, personally and professionally. If this intention is missing from your feedback, you might be losing a lot. Sure, your team will agree with you and follow your advice, but their heart won’t be in it.
Expressing this intention in your feedback will make them feel important, that they’re being taken care of as employees and that you’re honestly concerned about their growth. And that’s something that can be turned into a powerful drive.
2. Building a relationship with your team
Needless to say, trust is an essential component of the relationship between my team and me. This climate is crucial for delivering constructive feedback – I cannot imagine my team following my advice if they didn’t trust that I have their best interests at heart.
Showing through my actions and words that what I really care about is their professional growth, I make sure that when it comes to giving the feedback, they’ll take my words seriously instead of brushing them off with “I’ll just do it so he never complains again”.
3. Leveraging strengths instead of weaknesses
We tend to consider feedback as an action that is only about suggesting improvements. I learned that this vision limits the potential benefits we can get from giving and receiving feedback. Of course, your immediate goals might be helping your team to improve specific aspects of their work, but by focusing exclusively on their weaknesses, you will be sending a message that isn’t positive.
What I have found to work here is the following strategy: try to find something that an employee is really good at and check if this skill is transferable and can be applied to the area of work causing problems.
In doing this, I was able to encourage my team to use their strengths across various areas of the organization and make them feel more involved because there’s a sense that they’re applying these skills to help the whole business reach its goals.
4. How to deliver feedback
There’s no better way to ensure that your feedback is relevant than to deliver it as soon as possible after you make your observation. Talking about an interaction as soon as it occurs will help employees recall their behaviour easily and then analyse it from the perspective offered during your feedback.
I found that generalizations never work – saying something along the lines of “You did a great job” isn’t enough. What makes a piece of feedback valuable is your insight into the behaviour that you hope to be repeated or changed. Be specific, clear and honest. Refer to the what, instead of who or why the situation prompted feedback.
Never use a tone that can lead to a serious misunderstanding – that includes sarcasm, disappointment or frustration. Consider all of these off limits.
Giving constructive feedback is ultimately about communication. By being clear and objective, you’ll be able to deliver meaningful feedback and help your team see merit in your words, adopting your suggestions not because they want to please you, but because they believe it’s worth it.
Author Bio: Kelly Smith is part of the team behind CourseFinder. She is an active blogger and avid traveller with a huge interest in business trends.