As a manager, you’ll have heard repeatedly that giving constructive feedback is the answer to many of your management challenges. However, it’s really not that easy. We’d all like to think that we’re great at telling people when they’ve done a good job but in reality, how many of us actually find the time to it?
Then there’s those people who aren’t doing a good job. Or those who are doing a good job but their style is such that no one wants to work with them. How do you tell them what they need to hear without causing drama?
It’s a challenging area but developing skills in giving feedback is definitely a worthwhile investment. Telling people they’ve done a good job breeds loyalty and motivates teams. Telling people where they need to get better really is the only way for you to build the team you need.
So, is it worth the effort? It is. You now just need to find the time and skill to do it. Easy!!
1. When Giving Feedback, Where Do You Start?
If you aren’t currently great at giving regular feedback then we’d suggest starting by arranging a one-to-one feedback session with each of the people you manage.
You’ll be talking to your team on a regular basis anyway. However, these conversations will be about their day jobs. Don’t mistake this for giving feedback. This is more operational and focuses on the day-to-day challenges the team is facing. It is vital for these conversations to happen but they tend not to be the ones that people really learn from.
Feedback needs to be more reflective. It should allow both you and the individual the opportunity to step back and think about what’s going well and what’s not going well. Then you can put a plan in place for moving forward.
2. Structure Your Conversation When Giving Feedback
When you’re great at giving feedback and do so regularly you don’t need to put a huge amount of time into planning for feedback conversations. You’ll be clear what you want to say. You’ll know the individual and the best way to deliver your message. The individual themselves will feel comfortable being given constructive feedback as it’s just what happens.
However, if you haven’t given feedback regularly in the past then putting some time into preparing is highly recommended. You’ll have heard previously that you should start on a positive, then give the development area and then end on a positive – the typical poo sandwich approach! There are times when this works well. However, there are times when all it actually does is dilute the message that you’re trying to deliver. You should not assume assume that you always need to adopt this approach.
In a general feedback session, we’d suggest you pick two to three areas of strength that the individual has and talk about how they could develop these strengths and use them more effectively. Being told that you’re good at something is always nice to hear but then being challenged as to how you could be even better at it or how you could use that skill even more effectively is what really motivates employees and leads to improved employee engagement. You’re telling them that you believe they have even more potential and they’ll value that feedback.
When it comes to development areas, again we suggest picking no more than two or three. If someone is underperforming on a number of fronts this can be really challenging as you’d really like to tell them the full list of their failings but this has two negative effects.
- Firstly, it’s incredibly demotivating to hear that you’re failing in lots of different ways.
- Secondly, when the list is too long it feels that you stand no chance in getting to the required level.
As a manager, it’s your job to identify the things that will make the most significant impact on job performance. Then you need to get the individual to focus on those. By having regular one-to-one feedback sessions you can move through continuous improvement and add the next development area as you see them make progress.
3. Know That You Don’t Have All of the Answers
Staying open minded when it comes to giving feedback on development areas can be very useful. Managers often feel that they need to have all of the answers and move to a “tell” rather than “ask” approach.
If you’ve noticed something that you think is a development area for an employee, our recommendation is that you present this to the employee as a question rather than a statement. So, rather than “You’re clearly struggling with time management” adopt a more open style of “Having watched how you work, I see that there are days when you don’t seem to be able to get everything done that you’d like to get done. Talk me through how you’re finding your workload at the moment”.
This approach means that an individual isn’t automatically on the defensive. You also haven’t painted yourself into a corner when it turns out that time management isn’t the problem at all but it’s the fact that the individual is receiving instruction from eight different senior individuals who all say that their work is the most important.
4. As a Manager, Giving Feedback Is Your Job
You can’t hide from the fact that, as a manager, developing your team is your job. Managing people doesn’t happen by magic. Equally, people don’t magically get better at what they do.
You need to tell them what you’d like to see them do more. Then you need to tell them what you’d like to see them do less or stop altogether. Finally, you need to communicate where they need to improve their skills and behaviours.
If you invest the time in these conversations you’ll be rewarded by an engaged team who perform at the level required.
Please note: We have a training module that focuses on the skills required to give effective feedback. See our Management Training page for more details.