How to Use an Effective Feedback Style
Many employers don’t give much thought to their feedback style. They may recognize the importance of feedback, but not the way feedback affects employee performance. Others don’t understand the purpose of feedback, opting to stay in their comfort zone and ignore or omit feedback entirely.
Effective feedback can be a powerful tool for sparking productivity. In business, you have desired outcomes. Some are financial, while others are intangibles, like non-toxic company culture. Using frequent, effective employee feedback can lead to the outcomes you want.
How do you incorporate an effective feedback style into your management profile? We have nine tips to help you present feedback efficiently.
1. Unsolicited Advice Is Unnecessary
Statistically, only one-third of people find the feedback helpful. Why is that? Feedback is often unsolicited, so the person receiving it feels stressed by it.
If your employee hasn’t asked for feedback, you should be conscious of the fact they may not be expecting it. To ease them into the idea of receiving the feedback, you should incorporate a head’s up into your feedback style. The essential components of that head’s up are finding out if they are receptive to feedback and when and how they would like to receive it. This makes both giving and receiving feedback smoother.
Taking this simple step makes your feedback style more employee-centric, which leads to employees’ willingness to follow up on the feedback. Empower your employees regarding feedback. Allowing them control makes them more willing to ask for feedback in the future.
2. Specifics Are More Actionable
It’s easy to fall into the trap of having a generalized feedback style. However, for feedback to be successful, it must be clearly specific, solutions-oriented, and concise. Generalized statements like, “Your work needs to improve,” can confuse your employee. As you can see, that leaves the employee with no idea how to improve.
Specifics, meanwhile, provide actionable suggestions for moving forward. For example, an employee has consistently presented project reports using the wrong format. For a more positive feedback approach to this issue, you might say, “I really enjoy your oral presentation.” Can we discuss the format of your written report?”
This approach tells the employee what aspect of their presentation needs adjustment without sounding harsh. Remember to incorporate positive feedback into your feedback practices. Doing so allows your employees to understand they are doing some things correctly and should continue using the method.
3. Use An Empathetic Feedback Style
When you are delivering feedback that exposes gaps in the employee’s own knowledge, it’s important to be extra sensitive. Using a positive yet empathetic feedback style can help with this aspect.
Exposing someone’s shortcomings can lead to mixed emotions on the part of the recipient. Their emotions can easily be mistaken for defensiveness. Approach your colleague with a sympathetic attitude. Remember, they may initially seem shocked by your feedback. Allow them the space they need to process what you have to say.
4. Immediate Feedback Is More Effective
Waiting for the quarterly review period to give feedback can lose some of the effectiveness of the feedback. Whenever possible, provide feedback immediately following whatever you are reviewing. When you provide feedback as soon as possible following an event or presentation, it will still be fresh in both of your minds.
Additionally, feedback is more effective when it is given with more regularity. For example, consider providing feedback on a weekly basis. This gives your employee time to adjust behaviors before the quarterly or annual review. It also keeps negative behaviors from compounding over time.
Providing regular feedback allows you to address issues quickly to avoid interruption in workflow. Your employee won’t have to backtrack over long periods to correct problems.
5. Privacy Is A Must
Public criticism is never appropriate. Some people don’t handle public praise well, either. Providing feedback in a private setting honors personality styles and maintains professional practices.
An option for providing feedback is providing written communication. Using this method has two advantages. One, you can think through your comments and phrase them in the most helpful way possible. Two, neither you nor your employee meet with questions about a feedback session.
Sometimes feedback is uncomfortable for both parties. An idea to help alleviate some of the discomfort is moving to a private, informal area. This technique helps reduce some of the pressure felt by both parties.
6. Sandwiches Are For Eating, Not Feedback
The goal of feedback is improvement. However, using the sandwich feedback style can be confusing to the recipient. The sandwich style is the method where corrective feedback is hidden between two pieces of positive feedback. It doesn’t soften the blow of the corrective comments, and it can undermine both your feedback and the level of trust you have with the receiver.
The best feedback style for delivering unpleasant feedback is to be direct and transparent. You don’t have to be harsh or rude with this method (which is the fear faced by some). Instead, be tactful, empathetic, and concise with your comments. This method is more authentic.
7. Use A Conversational Feedback Style
Feedback is more effective when it is a conversation rather than a lecture. Lectures typically fall on deaf ears. However, inviting a conversation indicates respect for your recipient. Allow them to respond and ask questions.
Spend the time they need to understand your comments. Don’t leave them until the issue at hand is clear. Then, suggest the two of you share ideas for a solution to the problems.
8. Feedback Is About Performance, Not Personality
Focus on the behavior that has led to the feedback. Whether positive or negative, your feedback should discuss what they do, not who they are. It’s always best to consider the feedback method you would prefer to hear before delivering your own.
Consider the following examples:
- “I don’t appreciate your arrogance.”
- “It’s an issue when you interrupt me in front of the team.”
Which style of feedback would you prefer to receive? The first seems to be a personal attack. However, the second focuses on unacceptable behavior.
Focusing on the behavior leaves room for improvement. It is far less effective when we phrase feedback so that it seems to be about personality. Let’s be honest, a person isn’t likely to change their character based on feedback, and that style would likely lead to bitterness and distrust. Whereas feedback regarding behavior provides a clear path to improvement.
9. Feedback Is Not A One and Done Proposition
Providing appropriate employee evaluations can be a difficult job. You expend substantial energy to ensure that you have addressed the issues in a positive, empathetic manner. You will likely spend significant time thinking through what you need to say.
Rather than looking at feedback as an “I’ve done it, so it’s over” kind of conversation, think of it as a doorway to communication. Pay attention to the improvements that are made and respond appropriately.
Keep an open mind and an open door, so the conversation can continue beyond the feedback you give. Be available to problem-solve or otherwise assist the employee with meeting your expectations. Champion their growth.
Encourage your team to seek feedback from you, their coworkers, or other people. Your feedback should be a stepping stone to growth rather than the closing of a chapter. When employees grow through feedback, engagement, and productivity, they improve.
Why Is An Appropriate Feedback Style Important?
Have you ever received a quarterly or annual performance review and felt blindsided? Almost everyone has an experience like that. However, now that you are in management, you can provide the framework for a different model.
The goal of feedback is growth. Growth for the employee, the company, and yourself is waiting on the other side of feedback. Employee satisfaction and improvement fuel the potential for productivity, leading to a more significant bottom line.
When you use an effective feedback style, you encourage communication and collaboration. With improved communication, trust builds within your team. Improved trust leads to better working relationships.
Be Open to Receiving Feedback Yourself
An effective leader welcomes input from their team. Allowing your employees to provide you with constructive feedback helps them to view you as a part of the team rather than an outsider looking in. Don’t forget that you can also improve your performance.
When you model how to give appropriate feedback, the team will learn more effective communication methods. It encourages them to discuss issues and find solutions. Additionally, it encourages them to request feedback from each other.
The Bottom Line
Giving feedback isn’t an easy prospect. It’s one of those jobs that most people would rather avoid if possible. However, appropriate feedback is essential for improvement. Without feedback, people will become complacent, and the company culture will stagnate.
Feedback can foster open communication and trust among team members when done correctly. For a team and a company to experience appropriate growth, they must be open to learning what they can do better. When you deliver effective feedback, you foster a collaborative, communicative atmosphere.