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The Top 5: Tips for Giving Effective Feedback

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Good Managers Prioritize Effective Feedback

One of the most important aspects of any manager’s job is giving effective feedback to employees. Unfortunately, not every manager is a natural when it comes to dishing out praise and criticism. If feedback isn’t your forte, give these tips a try:

  1. Pick your time and place. The purpose of feedback is not to bully but to encourage helpful behavior and discourage problematic behavior in your employees. Public praise might make someone’s day and serve as a good example to others. Public ridicule, on the other hand, will likely result in anger, defiance or quitting without notice. Unless the problem behavior needs immediate correction, schedule some time to have a private discussion.
  2. Discuss choices, not personality traits. Telling someone that their mistakes are character flaws just shames them without offering any corrective guidance. Instead, focus on the choices they made and how/why they need to make different choices in future. Remember: behaviors are changeable, personality traits are not. Discussing choices changes the unhelpful critique of “you are lazy” into “you need to limit your social time at the water cooler as it is keeping you from completing your work.”
  3. Don’t ignore good behavior. It’s easy to notice when employees do something wrong. What’s more difficult is staying alert to what they’re doing right. A little praise can go a long way toward pointing someone who’s struggling in the right direction. Plus frequent positive feedback can make the occasional correction easier to swallow.
  4. Check for understanding. Some issues are clear cut but others might require an explanation. But don’t make the mistake of lecturing them and then asking, “Do you understand?” Let’s be real here: no one ever answers, “No,” in that context. No one likes to be corrected and most will say just about anything to make the lecture stop. Instead, make sure your feedback is in the form of a discussion. Once you’ve described the issue, ask the employee to explain it in their own words or from their perspective. Ask them if there is anything you’re not aware of that offers context for this issue. Engaging in meaningful discussion will give you more confidence that they really understand.
  5. Follow up. The whole point of feedback is to encourage change. Make your expectations clear with specific benchmarks you want to see your employee meet. Schedule times with them to check in on their progress. This lets your team know that you’re not nitpicking or on a power trip but are committed to helping them succeed.