By Brad Starr, Senior Partner at Partners In Leadership, consults executives globally to improve team alignment and communication and Mattson Newell (@MattsonNewell), Director for Partners In Leadership who works with leaders to create greater workplace accountability and facilitates enterprise-wide culture change.
Effective leaders understand the power of feedback. They use it as a mini-mentoring tool to clear the air of confusion and communicate how an employee's behavior aligns with company results. When offering feedback from a place of respect, a leader can move an employee away from undesirable behavior and cement the thinking and behavior that lead to personal and professional excellence.
Here are five tips to help you give impactful feedback for which your employees will thank you:
1. Communicate Why Feedback Is Important
If employees equate feedback with criticism, they may walk into a feedback session braced for confrontation and ready to go on the offensive. Demonstrate your desire for a transparent, productive conversation by answering two essential questions: "Why feedback?" and "Why now?" Clarify the goals you hope to reach: improving communication, spotlighting where an employee is going above and beyond, and pinpointing areas in which an employee has room to improve. And invite them to ask questions; feedback is most productive when it is a two-way conversation.
2. Focus on the Positive and the Potential
Frame feedback as an opportunity for employee development. Cite areas in which the employee is already excelling, and then ease into a discussion of specific areas where they could improve. You want people to feel valued, challenged, and accountable. Feedback that points the way towards excellence leaves employees inspired and eager to become their best selves.
3. Establish a Regular Cadence
Employees need to receive regular feedback, both appreciative and constructive. If you wait an entire year for an annual review before giving guidance, they might feel like you're springing something on them--a culmination of grievances or an outpour of praise that could have more impact if you had communicated in regular intervals rather than all at once.
4. Make Sure Feedback Is Timely
Timeliness is as important as establishing a regular cadence for giving and receiving feedback. It can be frustrating for an employee to hear a week after a project is completed that things could have been done differently. Rather than waiting for a formal review period, give specific feedback throughout the course of a project, as well as immediately upon completion. Reserve your regularly scheduled feedback sessions to discuss an employee's long-term goals and what he or she can do to reach them.
5. Ask for Feedback
If employees witness you asking for feedback, they'll begin to feel more comfortable doing so themselves. Being vulnerable is one of the most effective ways to establish trust. But do be careful that you don't just talk the talk. You also need to be responsive to the feedback you receive and demonstrate that you're actively striving to improve--your management style, the department's processes, and other areas that need adjustment. Leaders are human, after all.
When Everybody Wins
The ultimate power of this deliberate communication tool is that it supports employee success and growth as much as it does the organization. By working with employees to solidify or improve behaviors and outcomes, leaders can positively impact a host of other auxiliary business results, from retention to employee happiness, to productivity and ultimately results.