In my last post wrote about the different possible responses to feedback. A lot of the time, giving feedback or constructive criticism is less constructive than we might hope. At worst, it can create resentment and a decline in productivity.
So, how can you make sure you avoid negative or negligible responses to feedback? Here are my five top tips for becoming a Feedback Expert:
1. Be Positive.
Need to avoid the anxiety associated with Feedback? Make sure that you spend more time recognising achievements than offering criticism. When surveyed by the CIPD, only 13% of employees considered regular feedback one of the most important qualities in their boss; and yet ‘makes me feel my work counts’ and ‘recognises when I have done a good job’ – both key features of effective feedback – were considered important by nearly three times as many (36%). This shows that ‘feedback’ is considered a separate entity from the more positive, helpful encouragement that is expected from managers.
It’s high time we changed this perception. Engendering a positive attitude towards feedback boosts productivity and motivation. What’s more, it removes the conflict-inducing defensiveness of an employee who, offered feedback, is prepared for harsh criticism. Teach them to expect positivity, by being positive.
2. Be Clear
The most important thing about feedback is that it is a type of communication. Often, dressing it up as procedure diverts attention away from this crucial objective. What you are trying to do is communicate clearly where a person is succeeding and what they could do to improve their performance even more. The language you use to do this will have a big impact on how your feedback is received.
This comes back to the importance of being assertive. Being assertive is a powerful tool that relies on your personal conduct and choice of words. It involves a type of forcefulness that is different from aggression, and a level of respect that is more effective than over-politeness or submissive behaviour. Even though feedback might not always be as positive as you would wish, your team will appreciate an honest, direct approach, where they don’t have to second guess what you are saying, or feel the need to defend themselves.
3. Be Open
Feedback works best when you are working in an environment of mutual trust and respect. One way to nurture this environment is through communication: make yourself approachable. More importantly, make sure feedback goes both ways. By encouraging feedback form your staff, you will help to normalise the culture of feedback in the workplace, and remove the threatening stigma around constructive criticism.
What’s more, by genuinely paying attention to your colleague’s comments, you might learn something about how best to interact with them. A lot of how you behave at work will come down to the personalities you are working with. The best way to encourage best practice is to pay attention to each individual, and to lead in a way that motivates them.
4. Set Objectives
79% of those surveyed by the CIPD said that feedback was most useful when it contained clear objectives. This doesn’t mean arbitrary goal-setting, to make sure you have a box to tick in the next performance review. Think of it instead as adding real value to your comments.Whether feedback is positive or negative, it is seldom helpful to merely state the case. The most valuable part of feedback is suggestions as to how an employee can further evolve – regardless of how well they have already performed.
5. Be Constructive
Negative feedback can hinder even the most motivated employees. New research by psychologists at Kansas State University has shown that those who have a real desire to learn and grow are significantly bothered by negative criticisms.
But you can’t be positive all the time; sometimes, you need to highlight issues. The best way to do this is not to dwell on what hasn’t gone well, or invite your colleague to make excuses. Instead, try to start a genuine discussion on what could be done to improve the situation, and what support you as a manager can provide to help make sure they are performing to the best of their ability.
So how do you react when someone pulls you up on your performance, or when it falls to you to mentor another colleague?
Keep an eye out for the final instalment of ted Learnings feedback series later this week. And don’t forget to share your thoughts on this article below - of course, I’d welcome any feedback