Productivity in the workplace is the life force of the company. When employees are firing on all cylinders, deadlines are getting hit, clients are satisfied, and leadership can reward their staff with incentives like bonuses.

This perfect world, where employees are performing at their peaks all the time, is a pipe dream. After all, employees are humans and are prone to missing the target sometimes. For them to succeed, they need to know what the target is and how close they are to nailing the bullseye.

A 2014 study from Workboard found that 72 percent of employees think their performance would improve with more feedback. Companies need to provide feedback more often than the nearly extinct annual performance review, and they need to focus on a more effective way to share their perspective about how well their employees are working.

Providing constructive feedback is one of the best ways to steer the staff in the right direction and facilitate an environment where a team of leaders will be born. A culture founded on constructive feedback results in a team of employees who want to learn, develop their skill sets, and cultivate leadership qualities.

Here is how you can use constructive feedback to create a culture of leaders:

Focus on Situation

Leaders have a strong sense of awareness about how operations are going and how they are performing. If you want to build a team of future leaders, you must perform evaluations and provide feedback on a regular basis.

Evaluating someone's performance can be tricky. For the person being reviewed, they may immediately become defensive if they sense they are being criticized on a personal level. It's simple to avoid this.

Don't attack an employee's personally. For example, the phrase "You are not a good team player" aims at the person's character. They are going to react to this negatively because it is a harsh, general assumption about who they are, not how they work. These generalizations don't help employees develop self awareness; they are too vague.

Focus on a specific event. Instead, suggest how they can make changes to their behavior or habits. Change the phrasing to something like, "You will see your performance improve after you start collaborating and communicating your needs more clearly to your team."

This looks at a situation (team project), identifying a problem (performance), and offering a solution (improve communication skills). Feedback that accomplishes this is far more impactful because they become aware of a performance issue they can work on. These critiques are especially useful if you use concrete examples.

Use Concrete Examples

Don't offer generalizations or vague statements. Focus on being specific and offer concrete examples that illustrate where there is room for improvement.

Look for specific events and point out what you witnessed that they could improve upon in the future. For example, if you want to tell an employee they should be better at delegating, pick a time when you noticed how this negatively impacted the team.

Say something like, "During your campaign strategy meeting, your team asked a lot of questions and didn't get enough direction from you, which lead to some confusion and delayed a few tasks. Delegation is key in your position. That would be a great area to focus on developing."

However, don't just leave the statement like that. When employees are given concrete examples and told what areas they should improve on, they want to know how to do that.

Offer Solutions

People hate guessing what the next step is. They want actionable solutions, and that is where corrective feedback comes in.

The Harvard Business Review found that 57 percent of the 899 respondents say they prefer corrective feedback, with 72 percent saying it would improve their performance.

Start with being positive, and recognize what they're succeeding at. They want to know they are doing a lot of things correctly so they don't walk away feeling like a failure.

After all, corrective feedback is indeed a positive thing -- it's geared toward future solutions, making the employee a stronger worker and a better leader. One important trait of successful leaders is their ability to take on accountability. That involves owning up to their shortcomings and seeking solutions to get back on track.

Be straightforward and clear about what you want to see and how they can meet expectations. This also gives them a target to aim at -- a personal goal that they can hold themselves accountable to.

Provide Coaching

Personal coaches are great resources for developing leaders. They engage with employees in a one-on-one setting and can help guide them to develop those qualities that constitute a strong leader and can show them how to balance their personal and professional life.

They will also identify what kinds of habits and behaviors are derailing employees from making meaningful changes to their professional life and steer them through a successful transition into becoming a leader.

Personalized action plans and strategies geared towards career growth are essential for employees who are aiming for leadership roles. A team of motivated, focused employees holds a value that cannot be overstated. If everyone thinks and acts like a leader, the company is bound to grow.

Ask for Feedback

Just as they dish it out, they should also take it. Management needs to seek out employee feedback to hold themselves accountable. A 2014 BambooHR survey found that one in five employees had left a previous employer because of a boss who "passed the buck." When leaders avoid taking responsibility for their actions, employees lose trust and respect for them.

Acknowledge how you fell short and explain where you plan to improve. This shows you respect and trust your employees and they have a voice. An empathic, open minded leader is a good one, and this is a great way to lead by example.

How are you offering feedback to create a culture of leaders?

Published on: Aug 22, 2016