Giving and Receiving Feedback
How to Set the Best Feedback Session Yet!
Giving feedback to employees can be stressful – for you and for them! With the following three tips for acing feedback, you will be setting up employees, and leadership, for success.
1. Set the Culture for Feedback
The successful feedback session is accomplished before the employee is even started in their new role! Effective leaders discuss expectations with employees on the first day. Great leaders not only discuss – they dialogue: allowing employees to share what they hope the workplace expectations to be, but also sharing with the employee what work standards are followed, as well as what is expected of the employee. If you’ve done a good job of the hiring process, your new employees will want to meet your standards. So, don’t hide them — let employees know how they can impress you in very particular or specific ways!
In addition, set the expectation that employees may seek feedback at any time, and supervisors are willing to give feedback, too. Such a work environment allows – even encourages – frequent feedback so micro course corrections can take place, to everyone’s success. Don’t let everything hinge on final annual feedback — when it’s too late for the recipient to do anything about it! Act from the start.
2. When giving the feedback, do so in a setting and with timing that makes sense.
Avoid the common mistake of delivering feedback as a “drive by” event. Setting and timing matter, so align your feedback session with the intensity of the issue at hand.
Quick and Immediate versus Major Feedback
Savvy bosses give short, corrective feedback in a private setting – a quiet end of a hallway, or an office. This type of immediate feedback should be one-on-one – if there is more than you and the employee, you obviously have a bigger issue to discuss and you should move to a formal meeting. If giving feedback to an employee of the opposite gender, remain visible, or let others know you are giving tips to your employee on how to be even more excellent.
For short, corrective feedback, keep the time proportional to the issue: don’t meet for thirty minutes if the issue is small! Major feedback sessions should be formal bookings on your calendar and the employee’s, and ideally conducted in a private office.
3. Deliver the feedback in a quiet and planful way
Starting the Session
Start your session with a statement that “this is feedback” or “I’m going to give you some feedback relating to the last 3 months”– otherwise trainees/employees may not recognize its feedback! This is especially true if feedback is being done in a casual setting.
Giving the Feedback
The feedback sandwich is the best (and easiest!) way to remember how to sequence your words so the recipient can best receive what you have to say. The feedback sandwich looks like this:
i) Positive comment – Start with something the employee does well. Sharing a specific example (e.g. “You did a great job in your presentation to the team on Wednesday”).
ii) Constructive feedback – Share the area of growth for the employee, including the specific standards you are hoping they will meet in the future. Without sharing the standards, the employee may be left with vague feedback (e.g. “Your reports are hard to follow”) without knowing what you’re looking for (e.g. “Your reports should have clear sub-headings, be formatted consistently throughout the document, and clearly source where you obtained the numbers you did”).
iii) Positive comment – After hearing a negative, it’s good for the employee to hear a positive. In effect, this tells the employee “you’re not all bad” and reinforces the message that there is one specific area for the employee to work on. This follow-up positive is especially important with employees who may be sensitive, or only hear negatives.
Closing the Session
How do you know the employee heard you? Ask the employee to say back to you what they heard. This helps clarify the communication (or any miscommunication).
Ask your employee if he or she has any questions. This step particularly helps sensitive employees feel they have been heard, and treated fairly in the feedback process.
If you have delivered major feedback, set a follow-up meeting in a reasonable time frame to discuss progress. Invite the employee to present their great work to you, rather than making the follow-up session solely led by you. This last step helps the employee take ownership of their progress, and reinforces you’re serious about their growth.
Exceptional leaders are set apart for their ability to infuse a respectful tone throughout the regularly given feedback cycle. If you are nervous, or not the type to like any level of confrontation, then following the above steps helps you set a respectful climate in a way that is safe for you and the employee. Don’t miss the opportunity to be a leader by having the courage to invite a culture of feedback in your workplace.