- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
One of the main responsibilities that all bosses must eventually learn to master is giving feedback. In fact, aside from managing workers and coming up with big picture strategies for the company or task at hand, a boss’s main responsibility is to build up their workers and help them become even better at their jobs.
Thus, giving feedback is a necessary part of leadership. However, some leaders do this a lot better than others. Good feedback can drive your employees to become superstars – bad feedback can turn them bitter or hostile. Let’s go over how you can learn to get better at feedback with these seven tips.
GIVE FEEDBACK PROMPTLY
Firstly, be sure to always give feedback to an employee promptly… at least in regard to what the feedback is about. Adult brains always learn better when they’re given feedback immediately after finishing a task or attempting some kind of work.
For instance, if you have an employee that doesn’t perform one of their duties correctly, give them feedback the same day or, at most, just after the weekend has passed. It doesn’t do you any good to provide feedback about subpar performance three months after that performance has been going on.
Not only is this not to your employee’s benefit, but it also makes you seem wishy-washy. In the worst-case scenario, they can also make the employee feel like you’re picking on them – after all, why bring up feedback now when you’ve apparently been fine with their behavior for a few months?
PROVIDE FEEDBACK IN A SAFE SPACE
Your feedback sessions should take place in safe spaces. This doesn’t necessarily relate to physical safety (though it sometimes can). Instead, you should provide feedback in a closed or private environment like an office, or at the very least when there aren’t any other employees around.
Feedback, even if it’s presented in a positive tone and by a friendly individual, can be embarrassing for the person receiving it. It’s important to preserve your employee’s or subordinate’s sense of ego and pride. Publicly shaming them by telling them all the things they’re doing wrong in front of their peers is a terrible idea.
Along a similar vein, it’s a good idea to approach an employee about feedback in a safe emotional state. If they come into work handling serious personal issues, for example, it’s not a good idea to give them advice about how they can perform their duties better.
BE SPECIFIC ABOUT FEEDBACK
Feedback is more effective as you make it more specific. Don’t just tell your employee that their performance needs improvement. Point out specific behaviors or practices and explain exactly why those behaviors are detrimental to the goal of your organization and their duties.
Specificity is useful because it tells your employee that your focus on the behavior instead of their personality or character. It also makes it a lot easier for them to consider how they might change that behavior to receive positive feedback in the future.
A good example would be telling a secretary that he or she doesn’t organize appointments for your office correctly. Point out when and where these errors occur and he or she can correct it much more efficiently.
FOCUS ON POSITIVES
A great way to make sure your employees or subordinates receive feedback well is to focus on positives. This might seem counterintuitive if you’re ostensibly talking about ways in which an employee can improve. But it’s never a bad idea to sprinkle in compliments about the excellent aspects of their work along the way.
For instance, you could explain all the great things an employee has been doing recently to show what you like about their work. This puts them in a positive headspace and will make them more receptive to the improvements you will suggest later in the conversation.
Additionally, even when you discuss the negative things that need to be improved, it can be useful to focus on how those improvements will benefit the entire office or company. Positive reinforcement here, as in all things, is exponentially more effective than even the harshest negative reinforcement.
DON’T ACCEPT EXCUSES
At the same time, you shouldn’t accept excuses or complaints from a subordinate if they push back against your feedback. This doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a conversation between the two of you. But as the boss, you need to make it clear that you’re giving feedback so your employee can correct their behavior, not so you can excuse them for the issue at hand.
However, pay attention to the actual content of the conversation. If an employee points out that their behavior is being affected by one or more factors that make it impossible for them to improve, take this under consideration. Not all employees make mistakes intentionally and you may need to make other changes so they can improve their performance, in turn.
MAKE IT A CONVERSATION
As mentioned above, your feedback sessions should be conversations instead of lectures. You aren’t a professor telling students the content of a class. You’re developing a relationship with one of your employees and explaining what they’ve done well and what they need to work on.
To that end, listen to what they have the say and be ready to respond. It’s important that you maintain good discipline and control over the conversation, but having a conversation in the first place will make your employee feel more respected in general.
This results in better feedback sessions across the board. It can also result in some positive changes in other aspects of your organization. As we said above, an employee could point out a potential blind spot that you might’ve missed which may be impacting performance across your company.
Overall, though, keeping your feedback sessions framed as conversations does wonders for morale.
FOCUS ON THE BEHAVIOUR, NOT THE PERSON
Similarly, it’s strongly recommended that your feedback address the behavior or activity specifically instead of the person. Never attack your employee personally – their character isn’t the problem, just the behavior. This will hopefully prevent your employee from feeling attacked, which negates the need for them to become defensive or stop listening to your feedback entirely.
Again, this will help you maintain a good work relationship with your employees over the long term. An employee that feels bitter or unfairly singled out from the other workers in an organization will be less likely to take your feedback seriously or make major efforts toward improvement.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell