Giving feedback effectively isn't always easy, but it's an important skill for leaders to master. It enhances your relationship and level of communication with your employees, provides guidance and direction, and helps create an environment of growth and development. In order for your employees to improve their performance, you must give feedback that is relevant, helpful and effective. Done well, feedback is a key ingredient for building high performing teams, improving your employees performance and achieving company goals.
Based on research shared in an article by Zippia:
- 65% of employees desire more feedback
- 98% of employees disengage from their work when they receive little or no feedback.
If you need further convincing why feedback is critical for leaders, see the full article titled "20 Essential Employee Feedback Statistics ".
To help you become a more confident leader, here are seven best practices for giving feedback effectively:
1. Be Specific
A key element of feedback is to be as specific as possible. Never make general comments or statements. It's important you clearly articulate what needs to change or improve. This ensures your employees clearly understand what needs to be done. They can then take action by setting improvement goals and monitor their progress (with support from you!).
The wrong way (not specific): "Great job!"
The right way (be specific): "Great job! The quality of your research on the topic really came through in your presentation. It helped us make a clear decision on the best way forward. One thing you could do to enhance the presentation is to present the data in graphs so it is more visual and easier to see the patterns you spoke about. If it helps, we can work on that together next time."
2. Don’t Attack the Person
When delivering feedback, don't attack the person (don't make insulting or personal comments). To be effective, it's important to focus on the task or behaviour that needs changing. This helps ensure the feedback is taken in a positive manner. It also results in a productive conversation for the recipient and the giver.
The wrong way (attack the person): "You're stupid and lazy and it shows in your work."
The right way (don't attack the person): "The presentation you delivered lacked in depth research, contained numerous spelling mistake and misleading data."
3. Make Sure It’s Constructive
Another key practice of giving feedback is to make sure it’s constructive and helpful to the recipient. When you deliver constructive feedback, it will motivate employees to improve their performance and strive for greatness. As per point 1 above, the feedback should be specific, clear and focused on the task or behaviour that needs to change or improve. Done well, giving constructive feedback will help your employees reach their full potential.
The wrong way (not constructive): “The presentation was terrible. You should be disappointed with yourself.”
The right way (constructive): “I felt the presentation could have been more engaging for the audience. To improve it you should consider adding some images or relevant video content.”
4. Keep It Short and Sweet
When delivering feedback, keep it short and sweet. Delivering concise feedback helps the recipient understand and process the feedback quickly. Keeping it to the most essential points will also help avoid any potential misunderstandings or confusion. Keeping it short and sweet is not only a great way of giving effective feedback, it's efficient!
The wrong way (short and sour!): "The presentation was ok."
The right way (short and sweet): "Well done on the presentation. the visuals really helped get the point across."
5. Avoid Judgmental Language
When providing feedback to your employees, it's important to be conscious of the language you use. Emotions are easily misunderstood or can be taken out of context, so it's best to avoid any judgmental language and instead focus on precise details. Use language that is direct yet respectful, so the recipient can easily understand and apply the information. Including positive reinforcement and appreciation for the person's efforts can also be included to help ensure the feedback is received in a constructive way.
The wrong way (using judgmental language): The presentation was a mess. The research was poor and the structure looked like a dogs breakfast. You obviously didn't put any effort into it."
The right way (avoiding judgmental language): The presentation would benefit from more detailed research and a clearer structure. It would also be helpful to include some specific recommendations.
Using judgmental language can be a difficult habit to break. If you're a leader struggling to break the habit of using judgmental language, this article from Corporate Edge will help, How to break the habit of using judgmental language.
6. Ask For Feedback In Return
When delivering feedback, it's important that it's effective and valuable to the recipient. A great way to ensure both parties benefit from the conversation is to ask for feedback in return. This will help create an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding as both parties understand their opinions are valued. Asking for feedback will also help foster collaboration, as employees can work together to improve. Another fantastic reason for a leader to ask for feedback in return is that it sets the foundation for building a feedback culture. For a leader and organisation to be high performing, a feedback culture is imperative.
If you wanted to learn more on the power of building a feedback culture, check out this Forbes article titled, Why Asking For Feedback Can Be A Key To Success.
The wrong way: 'Not asking!' or asking and then saying something like, "Whatever, I'm doing it my way."
The right way (ask for feedback in return): "I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the presentation. What do you think I did well? What could I do to improve?"
7. Give Regular Feedback
Providing feedback regularly is an important element of helping your employees grow and develop. Based on research shared in an article by Zippia, "80% of employees want feedback in the moment rather then delivering aggregated feedback for an annual or bi-annual review." In the same article, "60% of employees reported wanting feedback on a daily or weekly basis." The moral of the feedback story, don't pile up feedback waiting to deliver it at the yearly performance review. Give regular feedback. Make it clear, concise and timely, allowing employees to make improvements immediately. Believe me, most of your employees will thank you for it.
The wrong way (not giving regular feedback): "I'm going to save up all the feedback and share it with you at the end of the year during your performance review."
The right way (giving regular feedback): "I'm going to give feedback in the weekly performance 1on1's with my employees. I'm also going to ask for feedback in return."
How To Give Feedback Effectively to Your Team
Giving feedback is a critical element of leading your team and becoming a more confident leader. Follow these best practice tips to ensure you are providing feedback that helps your employees grow and succeed in their role. Doing this well, will underpin your ability to build a strong and productive team that will meet any challenge that comes their way.
Get your FREE infographic (no email required) of the 7 Best Practices for Giving Feedback Effectively.
To learn even more about giving and receiving feedback, check out Feedback Conversations with Leisa Molloy on The Culture of Leadership podcast.