Giving efficient feedback to the entire team, whether positive or negative, can be quite a challenge for any business leader, as they have to find the best way to frame and deliver the information to ensure it is acted upon in the future, while also keeping it impersonal enough to avoid any backlash. If successful, effective feedback can motivate the team to learn from its mistakes and do a better job in the future, as well as to become stronger and more united.

With enough practice, leaders can learn how to deliver feedback with optimal results. These seven entrepreneurs offer their best advice on the first steps a manager should take when providing feedback to their employees and explain why these steps are crucial to ensuring honest, transparent communication.

Talk about issues, not people.

Arguably one of the most important aspects of providing feedback is trying to avoid assigning blame because that can easily alienate your employees instead of helping them improve.

According to Jared Atchison, co-founder of WPForms, managers should focus on the issues at hand instead of pinpointing specific employees and pinning blame: "Everyone works together to collectively bring your business where it should be, so one person shouldn't take all the blame for everyone's shortcomings." 

Be specific.

"If you want to give feedback to your team that they can actually use to grow, then you need to be specific," says OptinMonster president and co-founder Thomas Griffin, underlining the importance of highlighting exactly what doesn't work to avoid confusion.

"For example, you can't just say, 'Your work needs to be improved.' You need to give them specific examples of what they need to improve and how they can improve it," Griffin explains. Providing specific feedback will allow your team to quickly identify the issue and easily improve their work.

Ask what they found most challenging.

A great way of both giving and receiving feedback is to start by asking employees what they found to be the most challenging, thinks Nicole Munoz, founder of Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc. She believes that it's important for a manager to be a bit critical and try to get a little more out of their teams in order to improve the company's performance.

"Rome wasn't built in a day, and most projects aren't either. Find out what was challenging and then discuss what is good and what could be improved," Munoz recommends. "You'll have a clear path and know what is difficult."

Keep it informal.

"One could write books on how best to provide feedback to your teams," says FE International CEO Ismael Wrixen, adding that one of the most important things to keep in mind is that, one way or another, managers provide their team with feedback on a constant basis, not only during performance reviews or on special occasions.

"The way one responds to emails, approves or modifies project plans or even socializes with employees can give employees an impression of how they are performing." While this kind of "unconscious feedback" should be carefully monitored, it's a good idea to retain the informal nature of it, Wrixen believes.

Ask how you can help.

When giving feedback, leaders should also make it clear that they are available to their team to offer guidance or support should it be needed. SeedProd LLC founder John Turner has turned this into a habit and now asks his employees how he can help at the end of every feedback session.

"Their requests range from help with a specific topic to asking if they can learn from another department so they can better understand the company. These requests usually have positive results when we have our next feedback session," Turner explains.

Start with the good.

Many business leaders, including Uassist.ME co-founder Alfredo Atanacio, think that giving feedback -- especially if it's negative -- may be easier if preceded by a positive remark

"People enjoy compliments, especially about their work and when coming from management," Atanacio explains. "Also, if you have something negative to say or want to discuss things that may be improved, starting with a compliment will smooth the way so that the team will take it well."

Focus on outcomes, not weaknesses.

Finally, Interact Marketing founder and CEO Joe Beccalori finds that the most effective strategy for delivering feedback is to instead focus on guiding the team toward a certain destination, helping them to improve.

"Rather than focusing on perceived weaknesses, engage teams to focus on how to problem-solve and achieve a particular outcome, and let them own it, mistakes and all, along the way," Beccalori advises. "The best leaders know how to guide, steer and influence."

Published on: Nov 26, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.