For small business owners, giving good feedback to employees treads a fine line. The feedback should be genuine but not offensive, direct but not personal. Often times, it just won’t feel right.
Just ask Ben Horowitz.
Horowitz, a founding partner at venture firm Andreesen Horowitz and former CEO of enterprise software company Opsware, explained in a blog post Wednesday that “giving feedback turns out to be the unnatural atomic building block atop which the unnatural skill set of the management gets built.” So how do you get past the “unnatural"?
Horowitz offered six important tips. Here are the highlights:
Feedback shouldn’t be forced. “You can’t fake the funk,” Horowitz wrote. But if an employee needs to be criticized, you also shouldn’t dance around the issue. “If you decide to fire somebody, fire her,” he added. “Don’t prepare her to get fired.”
Horowitz said he thinks that while advice should be direct, it shouldn’t be expressed in front of other employees. “Watered down advice can be worse than no feedback at all because it’s deceptive and confusing to the recipient,” he wrote. But shaming an employee in front of her co-workers is more likely to result in alienation rather than motivation.
He added: “Your feedback will have little impact other than to…cause the employee to hate your guts."
Horowitz also explained that giving an employee feedback should be for the sake of encouraging her to succeed, not to fail, and its important to make that clear from the onset.