How to Give Constructive Feedback – 7 Tips and Tricks

Unfortunately, in many companies the annual evaluation is the only time when employees receive in depth feedback on their work. Why is that? It is usually because we find uncomfortable to give feedback and managers and employees alike dread that moment, when the employees receive a year’s worth “constructive criticism” being thrown at them. 

Why is this not a good feedback giving method? Because, feedback is much more effective if given right after the moment the issue for negative or positive feedback arises. Feedback should be timely. If given a year later, no one will remember the exact situation or the issue anymore. When done in the right way, feedback is what will catapult your employees into greatness. But for the feedback to be heard and to have its effect, it has to be given carefully and frequently. Not only in cases, in which improvement is necessary, but also to the best performers which are usually the ones receiving the least feedback.

Giving constructive feedback is a skill that can be learned, just like everything else.

Here are some tips that I gathered and that I practice in my daily work and I hope you find them useful.

1. Strive for a Trustful Relationship with your Team Members

Think of a time when you yourself enjoyed receiving feedback from somebody. Who was that person? What was the relationship you had with this person? It most probably was a person you trusted and who cared about you. Therefore, first of all, you as a manager or team leader should always try to build a close relationship with your team member, based on mutual trust. This is how you will come across as trustworthy, caring and credible and your team members will be more receptive to your feedback in the first place.

2. Try to Make it a Positive Experience for both Sides

As I mentioned before, giving feedback can be stressful. In order to make it more pleasant, think about the intention. Think about why you are giving feedback and how you intend to do it. Is it to help your team member to grow, improve and perform better? Can you deliver feedback and get the point across with genuine empathy for the other person’s perspective? Your role as a manager is to give feedback, not giving it, would be irresponsible. Giving feedback can sometimes be painful, but at the end it is a gift you will give to your employee. To know if you are ready to give feedback, go through the checklist, created by Brenée Brown, the author of “Daring Greatly”: Engaged Feedback Checklist.

3. Be Positive

A way to start is to start off with something positive. It helps people see what they are doing right and they will keep on doing it. Another reason for giving more of authentic appreciation is that our minds remember negative feedback much longer and stronger than positive feedback. We react to positive feedback like “Teflon coating” and to negative one like “Velcro”. If we give authentic appreciation often, your team members will sense that you appreciate their effort and that you understand the nature and complexity of their work. That will lead to trust and it will make them more at ease when receiving your feedback.

4. Describe a Behavior, not a Personal Trait

One thing is to give feedback on somebody’s behavior, another thing is to talk about their personal traits. The magic formula experts recommend is called SBI. It stands for S - Situation, B - Behavior and I - Impact. It holds true for negative and positive feedback. If we describe the situation in which a certain behavior occurred and the impact it had, it will stick much longer. Ask if the person agrees the description of the situation fairly depicts what happened.

5. Be Timely and Regular

It is very easy to postpone feedback until the yearly evaluation or a1-1 meeting. But then it might be too late, nobody will remember anymore what the situation was and feedback will not have the same effect.

6. Be Specific and Fair

Talk about only specific behavior and only about what you know first-hand. Avoid feedback “triangles” meaning using information you get about somebody from somebody else. Remember, in this case you don’t have the full story, what you have is mere “hearsay”. Your team member can get upset if she/he finds out that they were not approached directly with the issue and you might lose their trust. You will also want to be fair with delivering feedback, pay attention and make sure that you give each person on your team the same quality feedback and that you use consistent criteria for it. Do not act on your assumptions about people and make sure it all makes sense to your direct report.

7. How to Make Feedback Actionable?

OK, so you have given feedback to you team member and you want him/her to act on it. You want to make clear that your expectations are clear and that you both agree on the next steps. You can even suggest specific steps or use the GROW model to motivate people for the change you want to achieve in them. GROW (G – Goal, R – Reality, O – Obstacles/Options, W- Will). And do not forget to follow up on them!

And remember: giving timely and regular feedback and genuine appreciation is essential for you teams’ growth! It is the feedback and the appreciation given at the right moment in the right manner that will help your employees on their way to excellence!

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