Feedback can do one of three things - set a neutral tone, help the recipient, or have no impact whatsoever. As someone’s leader, your job is to deliver constructive feedback that helps and motivates the other person.
This is a risky business, but it is vital to the success of a business. It’s one of the biggest tasks of a leader. Due to its importance, feedback often makes people feel uneasy. They fear that an attempt toward constructive feedback will turn into destructive feedback instead.
It would be much easier if you could say: “I give up. I won’t give any type of feedback any longer”. However, providing your team with it is vital to their and your success. In this article, you will learn why this is the case - as well as how to give the best constructive feedback to your team.
Why constructive feedback is important for your business
It is estimated that in a work culture with continuous feedback, the employees are 3.6 times more likely to do better work. Before we delve into how you can give the best feedback, let’s consider the why.
For starters, employees want to receive feedback. This is how they are reassured that they are doing a good job, or guided if they aren’t. This is vital to planning their personal development and it is the hands-on approach to learning.
Believe it or not, employees even want that negative feedback we so dread to give. Why is this? It’s because feedback reveals learning opportunities and clarifies their boss’ expectations.
Another reason why you need to give feedback is to build trust in the workplace. One of your main tasks as a leader is to create a climate of trust and transparency. When your team knows that you’ll provide them with honest feedback every time they do something right or make a mistake, they’ll work with more confidence and trust.
In other words, if you bother to give them feedback individually, this will show them that you care.
Lastly and most importantly, feedback encourages better performance in a company. If you deliver the right message in the right way, this can boost the person’s morale and make them more confident in their work. It doesn’t even have to be positive feedback - all it needs to be is constructive.
Top rules for giving amazing constructive feedback
Now that you know why this is important, let’s jump into some actionable tips to get you better at it. Below you’ll find the best strategies to use when providing feedback.
Learn by examples of employee feedback
Instead of showering you with tips of the nature: “be honest” or “converse with your team”, we’ll give you the best tip you’ll ever get - learn by example. One of the best ways to master constructive feedback is to learn by quality examples of employee feedback. Leapsome, a trending people development software has some brilliant examples of what constructive feedback should look like.
On top of that, you can use it to create your performance reviews, implement engagement surveys, and engage your employees to optimize their work.
Learn when to give feedback
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with feedback is to give it at the wrong time. There’s a time - as well as a place for giving feedback.
Even if you master how to share the information with the employees, it is important to consider when you’ll give it. Every time you want to share something with an employee, whether it is praise for their work or a complaint, ask yourself if it is the right time.
For starters, ask yourself if the actions of the employee have a significant impact on their work or your business. Let’s say that a worker made a one-time mistake, not on purpose, and it had a very small negative effect. If they were late for just one meeting, it is not very constructive to take them aside and ask them to work on their time management skills.
More importantly, think about the actions and how likely it is to happen again. There’s no need to share negative comments if the employee cannot do anything about it in the future.
Also, don’t share any feedback when you are nervous and stressed. It is unwise to speak to your employees right when the problem occurs unless you can change the outcome right there on the spot. Clear your head and invite them to your office later and privately - and discuss the matter then.
Good employees are very hard to find these days. That is why the relationship with your team should be strong at all times. If you create a culture where your team is open, you’ll know the condition of each member and possibly even the cause of their poor work.
For example, if you know that an employee is going through a very vulnerable time due to personal issues, take that into consideration. This doesn’t mean that you should lay off all feedback, but reassure them that you understand and don’t deliver your feedback too harshly.
Finally and most importantly, only speak when you know what you want to say. Don’t be guided by emotions or jump at the opportunity just because you saw the person walking past your office. Take your time - constructive feedback is best done when it is planned.
Find a balance between the positive and the negative
Constructive feedback, especially criticism, works only when it is balanced. If you are entirely unhappy with the work of an employee, you’d probably fire them instead of providing feedback to help them improve.
Since you’ve decided to provide some constructive criticism, that means that the worker has made a mistake. That doesn’t indicate that they are bad at their work. This is where balance should come from - mix the positive with the negative.
Balance goes both ways and doesn’t apply only to criticism, albeit it is more obvious in that case. It indicates that, whenever you want to criticize something, point out some positives in the work and attitude of the worker in addition to sharing your concerns.
Let’s say that a project didn’t meet your expectations. Start by telling how you like the work of the individual in the past, and how confident you are that they can improve in the future. This will reassure the worker and yet, inform them that they could do a better job.
Balanced feedback can motivate and criticize at the same time, which is basically what constructive feedback is all about.
Refer to the SMART framework
Have you heard of the SMART framework? This framework combines the following:
Try applying this framework to your feedback. Whenever you create a project your team works on, you need to set goals for it. The five points above describe what your goals should have. This is the reference point you’ll use when you give feedback, too.
Of course, not all goals will use this framework and it won’t always apply to your feedback. But, use some of its elements to craft it. Speak to employees about what they should have created, how it was measured, what they are expected to achieve, why this is important, and when it should be done.
Describe the situation and its impact
Feedback is only constructive when the recipient understands the situation and the impact it has. You cannot expect your employees to act on your words if they don’t understand their importance or their purpose.
Whenever you share information with your team, describe what you are referring to, tell them the impact of their work, and guide them. If you are praising their work, tell them what they did right and how it impacted the project’s goals. This will make them more confident and motivated to work hard in the future.
If you are criticizing their work, describe what went wrong, what effect it had, and guide them toward a solution. Encourage them to engage in the conversation, share their perspective, and find a solution together.
Don’t use the “feedback sandwich”
For a while there, this was a trending strategy in many companies. It is so widely used that it is very transparent and annoying at this point. When you use the “feedback sandwich”, you are basically buttering up the recipient with praise and throwing negative feedback at them afterward. You then end up the conversation with something positive.
While you should balance the good and the bad, don’t give it this way. This is a notorious method that often results in misunderstandings, and people won’t trust you if you do it this way!
Ask them for feedback
It isn’t easy to give feedback, but it gets easier if they can give it to you, too. Managers are often uncomfortable with giving feedback, but in a work culture where everyone is open and straightforward, this is much easier.
If you want to make your job and the process itself more comfortable, ask for feedback about your work, too.
Have you been practicing these strategies before? If you haven’t, jump at them! Constructive feedback is one of the best things that can happen to your business, and learning how to give it is not hard at all!
WRITTEN BYSophie H.