The art of giving effective feedback is a skill that we are not born with and many never develop. Yet giving good feedback is quite a simple tool that can have enormous benefits. Here are 5 pointers to help you on your way.
1 – Why are you giving feedback? What do you want to happen as a result?
The art of giving effective feedback is a skill that we are not born with and many never develop. Yet giving good feedback is quite a simple tool that can have enormous benefits. Here are 5 pointers to help you on your way. One of the most effective questions that we can ask ourselves in any situation is “what is it that I am trying to achieve?” yet we often don’t think about this at all. When going into a meeting, phoning up a client or supplier or booking some time with a colleague, being clear about what we want to happen is essential if we are to make the most of it. This is also true for giving feedback, whether it is to an employee, your friend or your bank manager. Why are you giving this person the feedback? There are many good reasons for doing so – to change their unhelpful behaviour, help them to grow, encourage them to carry on – but you need to be clear about this before you start. If you can’t come up with a good reason, then maybe there isn’t one.
Just getting things off your chest is not a good reason for giving feedback and is potentially damaging.
2 – People always behave rationally. Always.
Their behaviour makes sense to them at that moment. Just because it doesn,t make sense to you doesn’t change this. You may never know for sure why a person has behaved the way they did. In fact, even if they explain it to you, you still wont necessarily get it. All we can ever know is what we actually see and hear.
So what is the answer? Objectivity – describing only what you can see or hear, not the stuff under the waterline (thoughts, feelings and beliefs) and keeping it factual. To do this well you have to take notice.
Your employee, Bob, is often late for work, which is unhelpful for a variety of reasons. You could tell him that he is slack. However, he may a) not understand what you mean, after all when he gets in he always works hard or b) feel angry that you have been so rude (which you have, by the way.)
You might try harder and say that he is often late. Bob may counter with “when am I? I was in early yesterday; you just didn’t see me until later.” This may or may not be true and if you have no facts to hand it is difficult to get back to the feedback. However, if you say “you were late three times last week and 4 times the week before” then you are on firm ground and Bob has to respond.
3 – Positive feedback is just as important.
If you tell people factually what it is that they have done well then they can reproduce it. Saying to a colleague “you’re great to work with” might be nice and encouraging but it is hard to do “great”. The chances are the person doesn’t know which bit of their working style you like. However, a statement such as “when thre is a problem that you have identified, I like the way that you think of solutions rather than just dumping it on me2 is much more powerful and will encourage them to carry on.
4 – Explain why it is an issue?
As well as making a statement about what has happened, explain why it matters and when appropriate tell them how you feel. If you explain to Bob that being late causes a problem with scheduling the jobs in the morning and that you feel frustrated having to spend the first half hour of each day trying to find him he is much more likely to do something about it. On the other hand, if it doesn’t actually matter then don’t say anything. If Bob wears red shoes that annoy you, but they don’t stop him doing his job, that is something you’ll just have to accept. As stated, getting it off your chest is not a good reason for giving feedback.
5 – What is it that you want?
The purpose of feedback is to give people the chance to improve. You do this by letting them know what you want them to stop and what you want them to do (or to carry on doing.) Be clear about it. Explain what behaviour you do want. What is it that you want from Bob? to be on time most days – at least 4 out of 5 to be in on time every day without fail to let you know when he gets in to make up the lost time somehow As for his annoying red shoes? Some things you just have to put up with.