By Igshaan Soules
A key task of leaders is to nurture the potential in others and an important aspect of this task is to give effective feedback. Having a blueprint for giving effective feedback will eliminate the struggle most managers and executive have giving feedback that works.
If you are a manager or leader then chances are that you will give feedback to a colleague at least once a day. When done well, giving feedback to colleagues can stimulate professional and personal growth.
Common Concerns and Mistakes when Giving Feedback
Here is a question for you. “Do you give good, consistent feedback to the people that reports to you or those you work with?” It is surprising to see skilled manager and executives struggle with feedback.
The most common reasons cited are;
- It’s hard to do …
- I fear it may jeopardize work relationships;
- I may regret saying something that will hurt others;
- I’m worried people will get emotional when they hear things they don’t like.
- I don’t want to derail my career.
Although these concerns are understandably valid and reasonable, they all come from making some common mistakes when giving feedback. These include;
- The feedback judges the person and not their actions.
- The feedback is non-specific and vague.
- The feedback is the proverbial ham in the sandwich – negative feedback is sandwiched in between two positive messages.
You can avoid these mistakes by developing the skills to build and deliver your messages in a way that will help people understand what they need to do to improve.
A Blueprint for Effective Feedback
There is a blueprint we use to help managers and leader adopt a more intentional mindset and purposeful approach to giving effective feedback – the SMART way. The blueprint contains five ‘must have’ elements to help you masterfully craft and deliver your message.
1. Your Feedback must be Specific
There’s nothing worse that receiving feedback that is vague and non-specific. I am sure you can recall instances when you told a colleague, “good job running that meeting”, “Great Presentation” or “you’re a good leader”. The person hearing the message may feel thrilled with the complement but will have little idea of what they did to deserve your praise.
This type of feedback provides no information about the situation you may be referencing. The feedback also does not outline specific actions or behaviors they’re able to learn from or replicate.
Below is an example of effective feedback that references both the situation the specific behaviors or actions that were demonstrated in that situation.
When you ran the staff meeting on Tuesday, you did not asked for my views about ABC project.
Feedback that is specific can also be measured. Effective feedback can be measured by the effect it has on others – how it makes others feel or respond.
Here is what it would look like using the example above.
When you ran the staff meeting on Tuesday, you did not ask for my views about ABC project. This made me feel that my views about this project do not matter.
Effective feedback helps others understand what they are doing well and insight into what they need to do to improve. Effective feedback also allows others to set clear developmental milestones they can measure towards their professional growth.
In the example above, what might be some of the things that could be done differently so that the person receiving this message can improve?
4. Don’t Retract
Effective feedback is realistic and sets reasonable expectations of what behaviours and actions contribute to success and what needs to be different. However, your best efforts in giving effective feedback can be derailed when you inadvertently sabotage your message.
When you ran the staff meeting on Tuesday, you did not ask for my views about ABC project. This made me feel that my views about this project do not matter. However, I do understand since we ran out of time.
The last sentence has the effect of retracting the feedback. This is one of several ways in which effective feedback can be undermined.
5. Give Feedback Timely
Effective feedback is given as soon as possible. When you give someone feedback several weeks or months following a situation, they are more likely to have forgotten about it. This diminishes the value of your feedback significantly. Where possible, give feedback within 48 hours.
As leaders, we impact the people we work with everyday whether by word or deed, gesture or tone. Sometimes we are conscious of the impact we have. More often, we are not.
Use this blueprint to help you be more intentional and purposeful of your impact when you build and deliver your feedback message to others. Doing so will ensure you provide more effective feedback that counts.