Feedback is a gift? Chocolate, diamonds, flowers, those are gifts! Feedback is just words. Actually, it is one of the most important (and inexpensive) gifts that you can give your employees. Feedback shows people you appreciate their efforts and genuinely care about their success. Every word can provide a mini-moment of recognition, coaching, advice, training, and affirmation. Let’s explore why feedback is so important and how to make it truly meaningful.
Why Feedback is Vital
Have you ever wondered whether you’re doing a good job, only to receive no acknowledgment? Or have you ever realized that you’ve been doing something wrong, but nobody bothered to inform you? Instead, they simply fixed your mistakes and grew increasingly frustrated with you. Perhaps, as a manager, you’re even guilty of this approach yourself.
People crave validation for their efforts. They want to know when they’re excelling, what they’re doing right, and how they can improve. While many companies rely on formal performance reviews, it’s insufficient to provide feedback only once or twice a year. The feeling of not being valued is a leading cause of job dissatisfaction. By consistently offering meaningful feedback, you can demonstrate to your employees that you genuinely value them.
How to Give Meaningful Feedback
Just like with any gift, the details matter. Imagine someone throwing a plastic bag with a pair of silver earrings onto your desk, saying, “Thanks for completing that big project.” Unfortunately, you’re allergic to silver, your ears will turn green if you wear them, and those long, dangling earrings aren’t your style at all. How impactful would that gift be? Now, picture this instead: the earrings are beautifully presented in a nice gift bag, complete with a delicate ribbon and tissue. They are hypoallergenic and precisely the kind you love to wear. The impact of this thoughtful gift is undeniable.
Apply the same level of thoughtfulness when giving feedback. Make it genuine, tailored to the individual, and highly impactful. Consider the following tips.
Tips for Effective Feedback
- Genuine: Show enthusiasm about what the person did. Get excited about a job well done. Show your emotions!
- Specific: Be clear and specific about the behaviors, actions, or outcomes you are addressing, and clear about the impact. Let the employee know the result of their actions. Provide examples and details that help them understand what they did well or what needs improvement.
- Timely: Offer feedback promptly to maximize its impact. This approach ensures that the employee knows their efforts are valued and provides an opportunity for immediate course correction if necessary.
- Actionable: Make your feedback actionable by offering practical suggestions and guidance for improvement. Focus on what the individual did well or can do differently and provide resources or support if necessary.
- Balanced: Strive for a balance between positive and constructive feedback. Acknowledge strengths and successes while addressing areas for improvement. A balanced approach fosters motivation and growth without overwhelming the recipient. If you give lots of positive feedback, people will respond to constructive feedback and understand that you intend to help them. I don’t know the exact formula, but I once read 4:1, so we will go with that. Be aware of how much positive feedback (4) you give versus constructive feedback (1).
- Tailored: Tailor your feedback to the individual. There are people who like public recognition or to be able to share their success stories. For others, this is embarrassing and uncomfortable. Know your employees.
- Consistent: Feedback isn’t a one-time event. To be effective, a manager needs to give regular feedback, and follow up.
- Focused: Focus on one or two behaviors or actions at a time. No one can soak in five messages at once, so decide what message you want to deliver and stick with it.
Positive Feedback Example
It took an extra minute to think about what to say to Tammy in the second example, but now she knows what she did right and what the impact was. Your feedback will also reinforce a behavior that you want her to repeat.
Delivering constructive feedback can be more challenging, but its value is just as significant as positive feedback. To effectively provide constructive feedback, it’s essential to maintain emotional control and use positive language. Charging over to someone angrily and chewing them out when they make a mistake is the worst approach you can take. Always take a moment to consider your words carefully. Set your emotions aside and approach the person with a genuine desire to help them improve their performance.
When providing constructive feedback, avoid phrases like “I’m angry about” or “I don’t like how you.” If you catch yourself using such language, take a step back and reassess your approach. Instead, focus on addressing the specific issue or behavior that needs improvement. Use language that is objective, specific, and supportive. Frame your feedback in a way that emphasizes growth and development rather than dwelling on mistakes or shortcomings.
Tips for Constructive Feedback
- Choose the Right Time and Place: Select an appropriate time and setting for delivering feedback. Find a location that is private and free from distractions. Timing is crucial as well; choose a moment when the recipient is receptive and emotionally available to engage in a meaningful conversation.
- Focus on behavior: Concentrate on actions and outcomes, rather than personal characteristics. This approach fosters a more constructive and less defensive atmosphere.
- Use Constructive Language: Frame your feedback in a constructive manner, focusing on the behavior or outcome rather than attacking the individual personally. Use “I” statements to express your observations and feelings, such as “I noticed that…” or “I feel that…” This approach helps avoid sounding accusatory or confrontational.
- Offer Suggestions and Solutions: Alongside providing feedback, offer constructive suggestions for improvement. Instead of merely pointing out the problem, provide guidance on how the individual can address the issue or develop their skills. Offer support, resources, or training opportunities that can assist them in their growth journey.
- Listen Actively and Validate Emotions: Allow the recipient to express their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the feedback. Practice active listening, giving them your full attention. Validate their emotions and reassure them that their feelings are acknowledged and respected. This empathetic approach creates a safe space for open dialogue and ensures that the recipient feels heard and understood.
- Encourage Two-Way Communication: Feedback should be a two-way conversation rather than a one-sided delivery. Encourage the recipient to ask questions, seek clarification, and provide their perspective on the feedback. Create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns. This fosters mutual understanding and strengthens the feedback process.
- End on a Positive Note: Conclude the feedback conversation on a positive and supportive tone. Reiterate the recipient’s strengths and their potential for growth. Express confidence in their ability to make improvements and offer your continued support. Ending on a positive note reinforces the idea that feedback is a tool for development and not a judgment of their worth.
Constructive Feedback Example
How do you think Bill feels? He knows his manager did not like the email; however, he doesn’t know why. He also knows that his manager will be checking every email he sends. Oh joy, nothing like a bit of micromanagement to inspire an employee.
Will he know how to compose a better email next time? Probably not.
Okay, manager, try again.
In the second feedback example, you’ve effectively explained the impact to Bill, focused on the facts, and demonstrated your genuine desire to assist him. By doing so, you’ve empowered Bill to take ownership of the situation and provided him with an opportunity to improve his email. Instead of taking charge yourself, you’ve offered training and guidance.
Now, it’s important to remember to provide Bill with positive feedback once he gets the email right. Acknowledge his efforts and commend him for taking the feedback onboard and making the necessary changes. This positive reinforcement will not only boost his confidence but also encourage him to continue growing and refining his skills.
Show your employees how much you value them by showering them with the invaluable gift of feedback. It’s a worthwhile investment of your time and doesn’t require significant resources. Remember, feedback is a two-way street, so don’t hesitate to ask for this gift from others as well—your boss, co-workers, and employees. By embracing feedback, everyone can improve and grow. So, let’s make feedback a regular practice and watch as individuals and teams thrive with the power of constructive input.
- Do I consistently provide feedback to acknowledge achievements and offer guidance?
- Do I deliver feedback with emotional control and focus on specific behaviors?
- Is my feedback balanced with both praise and constructive criticism?
- Have I created a safe space for open communication and employee input?
- Am I actively seeking feedback from others to enhance my own growth and development?
Is giving feedback on your development radar? Head over to the GROW page and make a commitment to work on it! And I would love your feedback – please comment!