53% of respondents indicated regular feedback was a key feature of the best workplace they had ever worked in.
53% indicated a lack of difficult conversations was a key factor holding their organisation back from moving towards exceptional workplace culture.Workology Co’s White Paper – Exceptional Workplace Culture: Why you need it, how to move towards it and prevailing the pitfalls
For over two decades, I have coached managers grappling with how to deal with poorly performing or mis-behaving team members. I have also facilitated more performance management related workshops than I care to remember (it will make me feel old).
One thing I have learned, and the stats above confirm, is that even though a majority of managers understand on some level that they need to give feedback to their team members, half of those same managers shy well away from giving feedback, especially if it involves a difficult conversation.
In short, Houston we have a problem.
Before I share my tricks for making feedback delivery easier, I need to make something crystal clear. Clarity after all, is key to the fundamentals of feedback.
For the sake of this blog, I will be assuming you already acknowledge feedback is mandatory
Sure, I get it. It is not in the top 5 of the favourite parts of your role. That does not change the fact you know and accept it is important.
If on the other hand, you are sceptical of the need to provide feedback to your team, then I’ve got to be honest and declare I’m dubious as to the how/why you are in a leadership role. I would love to insert some humour here to lighten the mood, but this is too important a point for even me to thrown in some (attempted) comedic relief.
Instead, let us dive right into my tips and tricks.
Ali’s top 10 tricks for giving feedback
Drum roll please, as here are my Top Ten Tips for giving feedback:
- Provide regular and consistent feedback.
Sprinkle that stuff around like cheese on top of a pizza. There can never be too much cheese (even vegans eat special vegan cheese).
- Positive feedback is as important as developmental
Everyone likes to be praised for doing a good job. EVERYONE. Some people just prefer the quieter words of thanks from their manager (hello introverts, I see you there); others like their hard work to be shouted from the rooftops. Or to win employee of the month. Or to be mentioned in the newsletter. You should know your team well enough to understand who falls into which basket.
- Embrace the mantra
Before you even think about giving someone feedback, repeat after me ‘Feedback is given to help, not hinder or destroy’. Maybe craft yourself a nifty little Canva piece and hang the mantra on your office wall where you see it every day. Because if your motive for giving this feedback isn’t to somehow help your team member, you are reading the wrong blog.
- Be prepared to listen.
There are many, many reasons why employees underperform. You might think you know the reason why Fred’s numbers have gone from stellar to the cellar, but until you have an actual conversation with Mr. Flintstone, and LISTEN to what he says, you don’t actually know WHY. And you might be shocked when you hear the WHY.
- Sooner rather than later.
Do not let the issue fester. It is like a virus unchecked – it will mutate and multiply and spread faster than you can say COVID. Deal with it before it spreads to the wider team or has consequences beyond your team.
- Be professional and respectful when delivering the message.
Unless they have already checked out of the role, no one feels comfortable hearing they are not doing a great job or that their behaviour sucks. It is unpleasant to hear this from a manager.
Be objective not judgemental when planning specific examples (point 7). Do not deliver feedback like AWAY CEO Steph Kovey. Do not tell an assertive woman she is ‘too sassy’ when you praise the boys for their confidence. Maybe imagine one of your friends or loved ones receiving feedback. What would you like them to hear?
- Be specific, clear, and constructive
Make sure you have specific examples of poor performance and be objective not judgmental. Concentrate on the impact it has on others in the team rather than attacking the individual personally. Use a tool to help you, like SBI or Seven Steps of Feedback.
- Work on developing the feedback muscle.
As with any muscle, consistent work pays off. Start easy i.e. ‘walk and talk’ conversations, build to ‘coffee and catchups’. As you grown in confidence, so will your ability to deliver feedback. Bonus result: you build more trust with your team members.
- Prioritise the feedback.
If you have more than 5 issues to give feedback about in one conversation, bah bung. You have waited too long, that is too much to address in one sitting. Deal with the top 5. When they are dealt with, come back to the list, and see if those other items really need to be pursued. I’m guessing not – because otherwise you would have dealt with them long before now.
- Choose when and where you are going to give the feedback.
I should not have to say this – but don’t deliver feedback, especially negative feedback, in the middle of the staff lunchroom or the café downstairs when other team members are present. Do not schedule a meeting to give developmental feedback an hour before a crucial deadline. And try to avoid holding the meeting in glass fishbowls where everyone can see what is happening in the meeting.
One last thing before you go
Exercising your feedback muscle is like using any other muscle. The first few times you try and flex it, it is likely to be difficult or cause you some pain. But adopt a Nike approach and Just Do It. And the benefits will outweigh any pain.
If you would like to learn more about ways you can deliver feedback (because really, we have only scratched the surface here) you contact me via the usual channels or watch out for Workology Co’s online training program being released later this very month.
Or if you would like to give feedback on this feedback blog, please post in the comments below.