The 7-Step Process for Giving Great Feedback

This is another of my LinkedIn posts, which I’m cross-posting here. 

One of the biggest challenges new managers face is giving effective feedback. While most of us are comfortable giving positive feedback, many people struggle with giving constructive criticism that improves outcomes. Here are some approaches that should make things easier:

Step #1:: BEFORE you give feedback, objectively identify the problem. What performance metric isn’t being met? Is the issue causing measurable harm to anyone or anything? Is your feedback based on doing things “your way” or is there something objectively incorrect about the issue you observed?

Step #2: BEFORE you give feedback, understand the recipient’s motivation and how they receive information: Is this someone who takes feedback well? Is this someone ambitious (and possibly opinionated) or quieter and more subdued? How will they react to feedback? You will need to adjust what you say based on how the person receives information.

Step #3: BEFORE you give feedback, give yourself a sense of perspective on the issue at hand:

  • Does this happen all the time?
  • Some of the time?
  • Is this a one-off?
  • Is it a “once is reason enough to talk” type of situation e.g s/he said something unprofessional/inaccurate to a client or senior manager?
  • How big a response do you want to make? Does this conversation merit a separate meeting or does a quick by-the-way during your existing meetings work?

Once You Actually Meet:

Step #4: Give specifics: Objectively state the facts, i.e. the specific occurrence, the number of times this happened, etc. E.g.”You were late three times this week.”

Step#5: Give context: Explain not just what happened, but when, why, and how it became an issue. e.g. “It matters that you were late because it affects our clients’ ability to get their questions answered and use our service more easily.”

Step#6: Identify what change in behavior or action you want. Again, specifics matter. “Don’t be late next time” isn’t enough in some cases. It’s better to say “I expect you to be at your desk by 9am everyday so that you can provide the best service needed to our clients.”

Step#7: Provide feedback on why this behavior harms his/her reputation, work and success: Sometimes people aren’t motivated enough to change for the good of the job; but they usually are motivated to change for their own success.

Bonus Tips:

How to handle pushback:

  • If they’re arguing with your facts, make sure you have proof.
  • If they’re arguing with your perception of the situation, ask how their view differs.
  • If they turn around and blame you for what happened, ask what you can do to better support them. Also remind them that you’re their biggest advocate and you can help them succeed. 
  • In all the above cases, make sure to refocus on the impact of their actions. Even if they didn’t intend to do something that inconvenienced someone else or harmed the bottom line, the impact of their actions was just that. Delineate the difference between intent and impact.

Things to avoid:

  • Vagueness: The employee can then avoid the problem on the ground that you weren’t specific enough. 
  • Comparisons: “Employee X does this so well- why can’t you?” is an ineffective approach. It makes the employee shut down or get defensive or both. 

In short: be specific, provide context, refocus on the impact of the employee’s actions and remind them that it’s in their best interest to improve performance.


5 Ways to Boost Your Team’s Commitment to Their Jobs (AND You)

An LinkedIn influencer post of mine that I’m cross-posting here.

For any manager overseeing a team, it’s challenging to balance individual needs and collective goals, while also ensuring that everyone feels motivated/supported and committed to the job.

But there are a few easy tips that every supervisor can use to boost team engagement, commitment and morale:

  1. Show them what you’re working on: if you’re assigning pieces of your project to your supervisees, show them how their individual portions contribute to the overall project e.g. if I have a staff member do some research on a specific marketing technique, I show them how that research will be used in a larger presentation on improved membership marketing.
  2. Explain how their goals fit into the overall goal: Whether you set goals for individuals on your team or they set their own, show them how those goals align with your departmental goals and the organization’s overall goals. While this might seem obvious, you’d be surprised how many managers assume their team gets it, without actually checking.
  3. Teach them something: Employees want to feel that they work for someone that knows a little more than they do either in the subject matter specialty or in overall management. Teach your team members how to do something, whether it’s how to troubleshoot a problem, develop crisis-communication to senior management to address a specific issue that arose, etc.
  4. Learn something from them: Conversely show your team that you respect their knowledge and work by having individuals on the team teach you how to do something. More often than not, managers don’t know everything that each individual on their team does. By taking the time to learn, you’re not only showing your supervisees that you respect them, but it also shows that you’re humble and curious to learn.
  5. Show that you’re impartial: No matter how objective you consider yourself, it’s inevitable that you’ll get along better with one or two of your supervisees more than the others: maybe they think similarly to you, or challenge your thinking in a way that you appreciate. Therefore it’s important to challenge yourself to identify your partiality- are you being fair to every person on your team? Are you judging some more harshly than others? Are you demonstrating your fairness to your team? Seemingly minor issues like the perception of your fairness can affect how committed your team is to you and the work at hand. So make it a point to show and explain how you’re being fair to everyone on your team. Hold everyone equally accountable.

Try a couple of these tips today, and see how that affects your team’s performance and commitment to their work, and you.