The best way to empower employees to perform better is to offer them feedback consistently and with clarity. However, sharing performance feedback in a way that messages are communicated with the right inputs as well as intent is an art that few know. For most others, feedback sessions may seem awkward or complicated, and they struggle with many things related to it – right from opening the discussion in the right manner, sharing information with the right inputs and demonstrating the right intent, to using appropriate pace and tone.
Not surprisingly, these challenges prevent managers from communicating vital messages that help employees channel their efforts better and deliver improved performance. And in the long run, these may prove quite harmful, as they not only drive down performance focus, but also hurt employees, leaving them feeling lost, confused and demotivated.
Driving feedback effectively
So, how can managers find better ways to effectively share feedback with their teams? And, what would they need to do to ensure employees connect with them appropriately during the feedback session? Also, how should they deliver inputs which include the right insights and perspectives, and create opportunities for reflection and action for employees?
1. Share feedback and inputs immediately
First things first, managers need to understand that feedback sessions are primarily designed to help employees perform better; and therefore the focus needs to be entirely on understanding their employee’s thoughts, actions and motivations. When managers recognise issues or challenges in the employee’s performance or behavior, they must provide inputs/ insights quickly and clearly, to help drive clarity and awareness on the action or behavior that needs change.
Employees on their part, appreciate receiving the feedback immediately, as it allows them to make quick corrections and focus on driving performance. Also, it helps avoid the unpleasant surprises and disappointments associated with feedback delays that trigger employee anger and discontentment.
2. Set the right tone
Beginning feedback sessions with a positive and welcoming tone helps managers steer feedback sessions into meaningful conversations with their team members.
By keeping the discussion setting comfortable and open, managers encourage their teams to share their thoughts and feelings clearly. These offer insights that are rich in detail and allow employees to feel heard and respected. Employees as well receive feedback without being too defensive and are more likely to be focused on positive changes in action and behavior to ensure the right outcomes.
3. Stay focused on the facts
Feedback discussions are highly effective when managers stay focused on the facts and share specific inputs that help improve performance. When facts are used, employees recognise that feedback is being given to them using an evidence based approach and is not driven through any form of unfounded bias/ judgement. They also allow for an objective and neutral approach to discussions, and ensure positive actions are identified to address change and impact.
4. Allow the employee to address concerns
Feedback is best delivered in discussions that are calm and unhurried. When planning a feedback session, managers must budget a lot of time. This enables them to go through the discussion points one at a time, offer well structured feedback and listen patiently to their employee’s ideas.
Employees as well feel calm and encouraged to seek more information on their performance, clarify any issues and are more ready to share their thoughts and concerns. Needless to mention, this paves the way for quality feedback sharing, and more ideas get generated between managers and employees to enable performance improvement. As they work together to plan and drive better actions, they get stronger at doing what they do.
5. Close with a concrete plan
Closing the feedback session properly is as important, if not more critical than the opening.
Before bringing the feedback session to a closure, managers must ensure the following –
- An evidence based approach has been used and the employee has received adequate facts/ inputs to clearly understand the areas of concern and actions needed
- A concrete set of actionable steps have been identified and agreed on with the employee
- The employee has been given enough time to have his/her queries clarified
- Employee feels assured that s/he has received the manager’s full support and cooperation to execute the positive actions needed
At the end of the day, giving feedback is both an art and a science, and needs patience, method and practice to gain mastery.
Managers who excel at sharing feedback know that it is a process that they drive with care and trust, and that they have cultivated requisite skills over a period of time. In the long run, these skills help them in not just anchoring the feedback session successfully, but also drive engagement and develop processes across their teams resulting in greater synergy across the organisation.