How To Give Feedback

“Without feedback there can be no transformative change. When we don’t talk to the people we’re leading about their strengths and their opportunities for growth, they begin to question their contributions and our commitment. Disengagement follows.” – Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Could it be that feedback is the key to retaining employees? Maybe. Many would argue there are other factors, such as safety, salary, fulfilling work and autonomy to name a few.  I tend to agree with them, these are key factors for attracting talent and in some cases retaining talent. Take those factors off the table for a moment, consider those boxes are checked, but there isn’t a feedback loop. The employees don’t know where they stand. They end up feeling undervalued and/or ignored. The wonder if what they are doing matters, if it really makes a difference. When we don’t satiate that need for them, they go elsewhere. That said, maybe it’s true, feedback is the key to retaining employees.

Feedback is often used to encourage, influence, motivate and also to inspire and ignite. In my time working with supervisors, managers, executives and owners, I can tell you a resounding trend, regardless of the size of the company, the industry, the location or makeup of the workforce, people are uncomfortable giving feedback. This goes for both types: the positive and happy as well the tough criticisms.

While mastering the art of giving feedback requires far more than a review of a blog post, here are few tips to get you started

Are You Ready? First and foremost, if you are going to give feedback, do everyone the favor of making sure you are ready to deliver the message.  Consider your mindset, coming from a place of resolution and growth will reap more effective results than coming from a place of blame, which is often fueled by disappointment and anger. The end result is shame, a killer of trust, respect, engagement, creativity and innovation.

Are They Ready? It is our responsibility to make sure we are reading the recipient.  If they are dealing with one of life’s other distractions, the time may not be right. This does not mean to delay all feedback conversations, but consider the timing. Sometimes even prefacing the conversation helps, saying for example:  I have some feedback for you on _____________, would now be an okay time? They may not be in the right head/heart space, give them the opportunity to schedule time with you.

Highlight Strengths and Potential. Speak to the person’s strengths and potential for future success with the project, task, skill, etc. For example, if you have a Customer Service agent, let’s call her Shelly, whose body language is sending the wrong message to guests, but she is otherwise very helpful and friendly you might say: Shelly, you do a great job of helping guests with their inquiries, you listen and get them answers in a timely fashion. They feel cared for and we as a team know you care too. I’ve noticed that your crossed arms and resting face when you are not helping someone can act as a deterrent, people don’t get to see you for how helpful you really are. Would you consider changing a few things with the body language you are using? Let’s talk about some ideas…

Be Timely. I have already talked about timeliness as it pertains to both the giver and receiver of the feedback. Another important component of giving feedback is that it is timely to the matter you are seeking to praise or critique. I tend to believe that if instant feedback is appropriate, then go for it. There’s nothing like real time learning and reinforcement. Sometimes the environment doesn’t support instant feedback, in which case, my recommendation is to deliver within 24 hours, assuming both parties are ready, as previously discussed.

Keep It Real. Authenticity is essential in giving feedback. You must, must, must be willing to get vulnerable and disclose what is really going on. Even with the good stuff, sometimes we are reluctant to share how happy or proud we are out of some fear of “what will they think…” With the tougher stuff, sidestepping the issue will only lead to further dysfunction.

Be Specific “Great job”. “Keep it up”. “Way to go”. These phrases work great on stickers, cards, posterboards and email subject lines. Without the supporting, specifics though, they are empty and halfhearted.  Tell the person you are praising why you are giving them that encouragement. What did you love about what they did? Or how they did it?  The same is true for the tough conversations. Why does it matter? What are the consequence?

As I mentioned, it will take far more than reading this blog post to hone your skills in giving feedback.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  A final consideration for developing your comfort and skill level:  start practicing and continue sharpening your saw. Get feedback yourself. Get coaching, learn from those that have gone before you.

At Transform Consulting, we are thankful to help others develop their skills so that they may enjoy a healthy and happy workplace. If giving feedback is a area that is holding you or your team back from enjoying work, we encourage you to give us a call and we can talk about a coaching program that will work for you!