10 Tips for Giving Effective Feedback

As a manager or leader, part of your role is to give feedback to your team.  Feedback is incredibly important to individuals and teams.  They want to know what they are doing well and where they need to develop.  Sadly, managers and leaders are often poor at giving feedback or worse still, don’t give it at all.  So what are my 10 top tips for giving feedback?

Tip 1: Catch people doing things right

It is so easy to fall into the trap of only giving feedback when things have gone wrong.  In reality people get more right than they do wrong in the work place.  Make a point of noticing when people do things right like hitting sales targets, dealing with an angry customer or hitting deadlines.

Tip 2: Look for the signals that the employee wants feedback

People are sometimes a little hesitant to ask directly for feedback.  They may ask in a much more subtle way by asking:

• How they are doing in the job

• Whether they are living up to expectations

Be alert to these signals.

Tip 3:  Feedback as early as possible

You don’t have to wait for an appraisal or meeting to feedback.  Whether the feedback is positive or negative, give it at the earliest opportunity.

Tip 4: Focus on behaviours

It is important to focus on the behaviours that are helping or getting in the way of achievement when giving feedback.  For example:

• I notice you were behaving aggressively in your dealing with x

• I saw you take decisive action when it was clear we might slip on the timetable

In the first scenario you are referring to aggression as the behaviour in your feedback.  In the second scenario the behaviour you are drawing attention to is decisiveness.

Tip 5: Avoid feedback that cannot be acted upon

The purpose of giving the feedback is to facilitate action.  Make sure is can be acted upon.  For example, there is no point is telling someone who has a stammer or stutter to get their message across quicker.

Tip 6: Check the feedback is understood

The quickest and often most effective way of doing this is to ask the other person to tell you to play back to them what they understand they heard.  This lets you deal with ambiguity there and then.

Tip 7: Give the opportunity to the other party to discuss how the feedback might be improved

If you ask people how you could improve the way you give feedback and allow them to respond authentically, truthfully and openly, you will learn and improve.

Tip 8: Use non threatening language

When giving negative feedback, choose your words carefully.  While you have to make clear the consequences if improvement is not achieved you don’t need to do it in a threatening way.

Tip 9:  Be a role model

One of the most effective ways of demonstrating that you are open to feedback is to actively seek it.  Many organisations have formal 360 degree feedback processes.  One organisation I worked for did not have a formal 360 degree process so I simply sent out an e-mail to a mixture of subordinates, peers and superiors asking them:

• What I did well

• What I did not do so well

• Where I needed to develop

If you are worried that people will be reluctant to respond, ask them to send their responses to your boss and ask your boss to feedback key themes anonymously.

Tip 10: Set up a date for follow up

The final thing to do after giving feedback is to set up a follow up appointment.  This lets the other party know that you are committed to supporting them and to making the necessary change.

Giving feedback will always be a challenge but you can greatly enhance your performance by following these simple but effective tips.

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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