It’s easy to judge, criticize and share an opinion about a person, or their work with others, but harder to share that directly with the person involved.  Ask any manager about their experience giving constructive feedback to team members, or other colleagues and you’ll often hear complaints rather than anything about the impacts of sharing good feedback.  

Before a manager learns the art of sharing feedback; many experience concern that their feedback could be received poorly and could lead to anger, or even tears and therefore avoid it all together.  These managers may wait until mid or year-end reviews to share insights around what’s working or not.   This approach of delaying feedback, removes the immediacy and direct relationship to the task, project that the feedback is about, so the team members ability to grow from that constructive feedback, is diminished.  

Why is sharing feedback important? Feedback is valuable information that can be used to make important decisions regarding performance & retention. Top performing companies have managers who nurture a culture of continuous improvement.  Top performing teams are not only good at accepting feedback, they deliberately ask for it and go about sharing it with other colleagues.  They are aware that feedback is helpful when it highlights opportunities for growth, addresses issues & blockages and is complemented with the strengths of the individual or team.  

Who to share feedback with!  Share with everyone! Regular constructive feedback helps align teams to the vision, pointing everyone in the same direction and creating agreement on deliverables & timelines. It also clearly communicates what they should be working on. Clear guidance enables your team members to streamline and coordinate their efforts for greater success.  If you avoid giving candid feedback to your team it will do more harm than good, both to the individuals, and to the team as a whole.

Steps to giving constructive feedback.

Write the feedback down. Write everything down about the issue, before you meet. Make sure you have it straight and run through with another colleague, to ensure that it is focused on the work, is constructive and is not a personal attack in any way. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Share feedback privately. Organizing a 1:1 with the team member is important and face to face is the ideal. This allows you to see their expression and body language and keep in mind most communication comes from non verbal communication.  It should be organized, shortly after the issue arises, immediacy is integral, so that the person doesn’t forget.  The personal touch also helps to create rapport and to lessen the blow, when needed. 

Ask first, watch your tone and delivery. Always ask if you can give feedback first and wait for them to say yes. Using the correct tone and delivery is the most important step to giving effective feedback. First, balance your constructive feedback by leading the conversation with something they’re doing well. Validating what they are doing is something that should always be included, as people appreciate it. Second, be clear and specific and share what happened and why it was an issue.  It’s also important to clearly explain why the behavior is hurting their performance. Make it clear you want to help them continue performing and developing these types of skills.   The best way to do this is to provide actionable feedback and specific examples and hold them accountable to that bar you just set. This will give an example of what your expectations are.  Frame feedback so that you draw their attention to certain areas because you believe it will help them improve their performance.

Describe the behavior not the person.  Follow these steps:  

  1. Describe the situation
  2. Describe the behavior (what they did)
  3. Describe the impact that behavior had on others

A little goes a long way.  Although you may see several areas for improvement, avoid overwhelming people with feedback.  Focus on improving one or two areas at a time. 

Acknowledge and Validate achievements.  The best way to show team members they’re on the right path is to recognize and acknowledge when they’ve implemented changes effectively. Remember to check in with them regularly to ensure that they are taking action in the right direction and meeting your bar that you set.

Create alignment.  Be curious.  Ask the team member for their perspective.  Give people a chance to respond to your comments so you can see it from their perspective and properly address the situation. Remember your job is to give them perspective on their actions.

Once you’ve shared and discussed the feedback, create a plan together. Offer suggestions for ways they could adjust performance and ask what steps they think they could take to improve. This is also a good way to make sure they understand and will take the necessary action.  You can co-create AIM SMART Goals.  Also inquire as to any obstacles or blocks they have, or how you can help them move toward desired behaviors and outcomes.