Let’s face it: it is uncomfortable to provide people with candid feedback. Whether you are managing a new or long-time employee, you need to build a foundation of trust with your direct reports and team to share feedback constructively.
Ongoing feedback is more desirable and constructive than any other form. It gives everyone practice with giving and absorbing feedback, plus if feedback is common, then each expression becomes less weighted. If you know where you stand, you’re not waiting for an indicator.
Employees respond to meaningful direction. Clear and candid feedback helps employees deliver in a way that builds confidence. When you deliver feedback clearly and authentically, you shape performance conversations into powerful action plans.
Consider these tips as you refine your strategy for delivering feedback.
Align Feedback with Culture and Values
Sharing performance feedback becomes a normal business practice, rather than some dreaded quarterly or annual review meeting. Checking in to hear what employees are working on, or providing quick input on a project, signals that you care and have their back. “A good practice is to have a consistent practice of providing positive encouragement and proactive feedback to all members of your team–whether they are your superstars or an individual who may be struggling.
Having regular and proactive conversations that balance feedback with encouragement helps teams build trust and helps make feedback a positive part of growth and engagement versus a topic to be avoided,” explains Mariana Garavaglia, Chief People Officer, Peloton Interactive.
Celebrating success reinforces performance and builds confidence. This can help remove the stigma from feedback. Why should it be viewed as negative to help employees recognize how they might adjust performance to earn better results?
Attitudes about feedback can be embedded into a culture that values communication as a tool for self-awareness and improvement.
Leaders can promote that vision, making feedback feel more helpful than punitive. “The goal when providing feedback should be to help a person improve–so it’s important to think about what feedback you’re providing, why you’re providing it, and think through the most thoughtful, most actionable, and most focused way in which you can have that conversation to achieve those objectives.” Garavaglia points out.
Own Your Message
Providing meaningful feedback requires getting comfortable owning your message and then conducting the conversation in your authentic voice.
Remind yourself that your goals are honorable; you are not here to gossip or throw shade at your employee or their work. Your goal is to assist them as they learn and grow while helping them to understand what success looks like. Part of this conversation means helping them realize where their results may fall short of expectations and how they can improve.
“It’s easy to confuse feedback with criticism.” shares Garavaglia. “We may worry that giving feedback will damage a relationship, be taken personally, or hurt someone’s feelings–so it may seem easier to hope the issue passes on its own to provide feedback or address a problem proactively.”
Providing helpful feedback requires thoughtful care and preparation. Allow employees time to absorb the feedback you share with them. Also, don’t make assumptions about what your employees want, think, or feel. Come ready to listen.
Career discussions should not be a casual chat or a routine one-on-one to discuss upcoming deliverables or to list complaints about the failings of the employee. Give actionable feedback that describes the employee’s impact and communicate how to achieve success.
Employees internalize feedback when it’s specific and actionable. So be purposeful and develop a key message supported by examples. Offering vague feedback can make employees feel defensive or confused.
As you prepare, make sure you are focused on resolving issues and not assigning blame. When you have clear communication, it makes it easier for employees to absorb responsibility.
Adopt a Coach’s Mindset
Be authentic when you engage in coaching. Leverage your own experience to offer perspective. Set the stage for an open dialogue by talking about your own setbacks and challenges along with those weathered by successful company leaders. This signals the vibe that employees are not in trouble; instead, they are learning.
While you want to set a welcoming tone, you don’t want to monopolize the conversation. While sharing your own experiences is a good tactic for making employees feel comfortable, don’t assume that what worked for you will work for everyone. Remember: your role here is to listen, not to dominate.
While you want to set a positive tone, you also need to ensure accountability. You do this by following up and setting milestones to allow employees to gauge their progress. Be explicit about the intended path to the desired endpoint. Explain the reasons behind your suggestions. Give your employees goals, a sense of direction and something to strive for. Expect the best from your people and you will get it.
Tammy Perkins is the Chief People Officer of PMI Worldwide, where she leads Human Resources for PMI’s family of brands including Stanley and Aladdin. Prior to joining PMI, Tammy worked with major brands and startups including Amazon, Microsoft and Fjuri – leading HR and talent acquisition during periods of high growth and transformation. Find her on Twitter @TammyPerkinsHR and LinkedIn.