One of our key roles as leaders is to develop our people and help them maximize their potential. This is both our responsibility to them, as well as to our organization.
By developing and improving our employees’ performance we enable them to succeed in their respective roles. And as a result, contribute more value to the organization. Furthermore, this raises the performance of the company as a whole, leading to greater achievements and better financial results.
One of the most useful tools in our leadership toolbox is personal feedback. However, few leaders use correctly and effectively. No one enjoys delivering “negative messages”. Many managers feel uncomfortable in what they perceive as a stressful interaction with their employees. So they either avoid it altogether or settle for a formal annual performance review. Neither is a good approach.
The foundation of effective feedback is sincere care for the person you’re giving it to. You need to care about her success and about her as a person. Your people will appreciate your sincere interest in them and their success and will be more receptive to your messages.
How to give effective feedback
So how should you give your employees effective feedback? Here are a few suggestions from my own experience:
Make it respectful – For your message to be heard and received the receiver needs to feel comfortable and respected. Use a private setting, an office, a quiet spot (even outdoors) or even a quiet café. Don’t give your feedback in front of other people or in a noisy, public environment.
Make it timely – For the feedback to be effective and lessons to be learned make is as close as possible to the action or event itself. It could be soon after or within days. Don’t wait until the end of the year or even a month. This also means you should provide feedback often, even once a week.
Be selective – A normal person can only absorb up to three main messages at a time. Pick only one or two items to discuss in each feedback session. This is yet another reason why you should give feedback often.
Make it specific – Be sure you can support your feedback with specific examples that clearly illustrate your point. Since this helps the receiver understand what you mean, and what she needs to improve. Be specific and objective in describing the situation that you’re referring to, the employee’s behavior, and its impact or results.
Make it constructive – Focus your message on how the employee can improve his performance. What actions should be taken, and what will you do to help them achieve the desired results. So that a corrective action plan developed.
Offer ways and opportunities to apply your feedback – Always end your feedback session with an action plan that the employee can apply to make the necessary improvement. Your responsibility is to provide opportunities for him to do so. And, offer any guidance and suggestions on how they can put your feedback to use.
To be effective, leaders should also link their feedback to the employee’s specific career development goals. For example, for a SW engineer, improving her communication skills is important if she wishes to develop into a leader.
Finally, practice the delivery of constructive feedback often. Follow-up with your people to learn how effective and useful it was for them. So, you will develop this important tool and skill. This will make you a more effective leader.