Few of us love delivering feedback, but as former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has said: "We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve." So, with this in mind, let's take a look at some best practices for giving feedback in a way that improves performance.
1) Deliver feedback as soon as possible.
Your impulse might be to wait - or even to avoid, but it's critical to seize the moment and provide feedback when memory is fresh and a person can better appreciate the impact of the advice you're giving. And it's also essential to be as specific as possible with your feedback - as in: "When you interrupted me twice during the conversation we just had, I think that it reduced my credibility with the clients we were speaking with." It might feel more comfortable to delay - but giving feedback as close as possible to the actual situation in question will increase the odds it resonates.
2) Make feedback collaborative
Your ultimate goal is to encourage the other person to embrace your point and ideally make a change. And a real key to having that happen is to be inquisitive and collaborative. Building on the case above, for example, you might ask: "I'm wondering how we might leave more room for me to make my points as well?" And then have a conversation based on your colleague's answer. You're partners in helping bring about a change as opposed to the "bad guy" delivering a negative message.
3) Make feedback into a habit.
When experienced managers come to my MBA classroom to talk with students, they always emphasize one thing about delivering feedback: that it should be a habit. This is especially true in the context of performance reviews, where feedback - especially negative feedback - should never be a complete surprise at the end of the year. People have a sense of how they're doing throughout, and a clear communication line for feedback and improvement.
In the end, feedback can be tough to deliver, but if done in a clear and constructive manner, it's one of the only reliable ways to change someone's behavior.