3 Tips on How to Give Feedback with Optimal Results

Every employer wants to provide honest, constructive feedback that inspires a team member to improve performance and maintain a positive attitude. Delivering those kinds of assessments—the ones that lift people up versus deflating them—is more of an art than a science, but it’s critical to ensure career satisfaction, create a healthy work environment, and boost your business.   

Instead of focusing on what employees do wrong, and what you don’t want, think of feedback as an opportunity to help your team build self-awareness around what they did well and what they can do better — in other words, help them visualize and plan for their ideal future.

A culture of improvement requires a culture of recognition, says Gordon Tredgold, founder and CEO of Leadership Principles. Praise should be immediate, specific, authentic, and enthusiastic, he says. Negative feedback, which can impact someone’s self-esteem and sense of security, should always be delivered in private.

“Everyone wants to come to work to do a good job, very few people are just doing it for the money, and if we can find ways to recognize them to feed their self-esteem, it will encourage them to continue to do good work and to seek new opportunities for even more recognition,” writes Tredgold in Inc

Giving people instructions to accomplish a task has its place. But when you are pursuing larger goals, it’s important to realize you are also shaping the course of someone else’s career. Feedback shouldn’t be a matter of Do This or Don’t Do That. Instead, as an article in Harvard Business Review puts it, the question becomes, “How can we help each person thrive and excel?”

When feedback is approached from this angle, and from a position of authority and trust, it’s more likely to be welcomed and considered useful. Keep in mind that most people overestimate their abilities and underestimate their inadequacies (that’s known in psychology as the Dunning-Kruger Effect). 

Remember to check your emotions at the door, and provide neutral observations and concrete examples of positive behavior and performance that could be improved. Engage your team member as a partner and encourage them to share their ideas and concerns.     

Here are 3 more tips to get optimal results:

The Scorecard. Build a scorecard for the interview process and on-boarding procedure so everyone is on the same page. There should be no guesswork involved when it comes to understanding professional objectives and priorities.

Each scorecard should measure a hire’s performance in categories relevant to excel in the position such as operations, leadership, new business, etc. Then, throughout the year, keep specific notes in a performance tracker (Excel works), incorporating the scorecard which can be used at review time. 

“The individual scorecard defines the contribution of each position to the organization. It measures the added value to the realization of the vision,” says Riaz Khadem, author of “Total Alignment,” in Entrepreneur. “It provides a way of measuring and tracking progress on an ongoing basis and keeps the individual focused on important priorities.”

Self-Review. Before you can provide a review, however, you need to understand how an employee is likely to gauge his/her performance. Understanding someone’s level of self-awareness helps you anticipate their reactions and figure out where best to focus your time. That’s where a self-review comes in.

A self-evaluation form should include a list of 8 to 12 questions based on the employee’s scorecard and the company’s core values. Focus on what they have accomplished, and how they have impacted the organization. Also consider questions like, “What opportunities have you seen for the organization’s overall improvement, and how did you respond?”

Feedback. Always start with positive accomplishments and company successes. Discuss where the team member has grown professionally before moving into areas for improvement.

The best employees crave this portion of their review. They know it’s the only way they can get better and continue progressing in their career. It also shows them you’re a mentor they can learn from and this drives loyalty. 

The moment your employees stop learning, they become complacent and begin to look for more exciting challenges. For a productive and engaging review, try getting out of the office over coffee. Sometimes something as small as changing the environment makes it easier for two parties to open up and have a healthy dialogue about the future. 

What has been the most constructive feedback you’ve received?

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