Feedback is one of the most important management tools for organizations; however, the skill of giving effective feedback is frequently not taught. In fact, giving and receiving feedback is often feared by both direct reports and managers. This fear is partly driven by managers not knowing how to give feedback and employees misinterpreting feedback & taking it too personally.
While most people acknowledge the benefits and importance of feedback, feedback is a double edge sword – poorly delivered feedback can be just as bad as no feedback for employee productivity and development. Feedback needs to be constructive to develop and motivate employees.
– “I appreciate your effort – your leadership skills are improving“
– “I’d like to thank the team for the great job and all of their hard work on the project“
This type of feedback sounds nice, but it is not constructive – there is little direction on the behaviors that an employee should improve, repeat, or correct. This feedback also lacks context (i.e., was this feedback in regards to something done this morning, last week, last quarter?).
We previously have written an article on what effective feedback looks like. In brief, effective feedback is:
- Constructive – feedback should be focused on behaviors and forward-looking, not traits or backward-looking.
- Objective – it’s often impossible to get to the “truth”, but make unconscious bias training mandatory and enable 360 feedback.
- Continuous – feedback should be shared frequently to reduce recency bias.
- Relevant – feedback should be specifically related to the receivers’ goals, objectives, and career path.
- Direct & kind – feedback should be sugar-coated; feedback must be direct & kind.
Providing context around the feedback is also critical. It makes the feedback more relevant and tangible to the employee. Below, we provide some examples of what effective feedback should look like.
Example : leadership skills
“With our anticipated product launch in December, you set clear outreach directions for the interns to follow – your process outline was very clear. You also turned it around very quickly which allowed for ample time for interns to ask questions before the launch. Thank you.”
“I truly value your ability to lead our remote weekly team meetings. The agenda that you send before each meeting has made the meetings more productive. My only suggestion is to send the agenda 48 hours (instead of 12 hours) before. This will alleviate any stress that team members may have, as they will have more time to prepare and organize their talking points.”
Example : communication skills
“You did a good job in our client meeting this morning – you explained the algorithm with analogies that helped communicate the technical information to the non-tech executives. I can tell that you truly understand and are passionate about this topic. However, sometimes when you get excited, you speak too fast. You also didn’t pause for questioning before moving on to the next topic. Next time, try and speak slower and remember to ask if anyone has questions before moving on to the next topic.”
“While the content in the most recent marketing piece you wrote was good, it is important to remember the audience we are addressing. Because 25% of our audience is international, try and avoid idioms and references to pop culture as this may date the article and could be misinterpreted by our readers. With that being said, I truly appreciated your efforts to make the article engaging to our younger audience!”
Example : teamwork skills
“Last week, you not only sent your report in two days before the deadline, you also attached a summary page that was simple for me to read. This was incredibly helpful as it allowed me to make my decision in a time-efficient manner. Thank you!”
“During our team meetings, you often do not participate. I know speaking in front of a group can be daunting, particularly when you are a junior speaking to people more senior than you. If you do not feel comfortable providing suggestions or critiquing ideas, start by asking simple questions. This will help facilitate discussion, but also help you build confidence to speak up more during our meetings.”
Example : organizational skills
“Your grasp on the bigger vision of the project is refreshing. However, you’ve been forgetting a few details like updating last week’s files with the correct dates. Next time, try to immediately update the files so that we have up-to-date logs.”
Example: interpersonal skills
“With our client call this morning, you clearly had familiarized yourself with the client background information which saved lots of time at the beginning of the meeting, but also impressed the client. Great work!”
Example : problem-solving skills
“In our outreach strategy meeting last week, it was clear that you had researched our past strategies and condensed the data in a way that facilitated team discussion. This was extremely helpful for brainstorming our Q3 strategy. In the future, feel free to propose more ‘creative and wild’ strategies that we have not tried. Keep up the great work! Thank you!”
In each of these examples, the feedback is constructive (action-based, behavior-based, and forward-looking), relevant (context is provided), and direct & kind.
Giving this type of effective feedback frequently will truly develop and motivate your employees. It will also create high performers since there is a focus on modifying behaviours (not traits) of the employees (if you want more information on the power of behavioral modification, check out the work by B.F. Skinner, one of the most influential behavioral psychologists. You can also check out a summary of behavioral modification here).
Still unsure how to give constructive feedback?
If you are still unsure if your feedback is constructive, our tip is to use action words in your feedback. We provide some action verbs that you can utilize in your feedback conversations in the table below.
If you want to know more about how to improve the feedback in your organization, feel free to contact us. We understand that giving and receiving feedback are skills that need to be learnt and practiced – we host workshops that are focused on developing these feedback skills in our fun and interactive workshops. Enable the culture of feedback in your organization with Pavestep!