As important as feedback is, we get and give too little of it – and often too late. Whether you’re the leader or not, you need to keep feedback as a ready tool for yourself and your team.
For most organizations, feedback is given once a year during the annual performance review. It’s generally not a pleasant experience because most managers don’t know how to do it well, and most employees tend to focus on the negative aspects. However, done and practiced well, feedback can be helpful for both parties. This month, we’ll look at feedback from the manager’s point of view.
Have A Goal In Mind. You should have a clear picture of how you want your employee to perform. This needs to be detailed. Write it down if you need to. How do they behave? What’s their attitude? How should they speak to clients and each other? What time do they show up and leave? What kind of metrics do they need to meet? Which of these characteristics are the most important? There’s one caveat here. YOU have to be the model for this. If you can’t model this behavior, you can’t really expect them to do it.
Tailor Your Feedback. Everyone absorbs information in different ways. Learn how your staff learn best. But, don’t rely on just one method. Try different ways if you think the message isn’t getting through.
Small, Steady Doses. Don’t wait to do this just once a year. If policy requires a formal annual review, then do so. However, by the time you get to it, many of the small things you could have addressed will be forgotten. You should look for opportunities to offer a softer-focused feedback. Do this informally, say when you finish talking with one of your staff about one topic, casually mention that you noticed such and such about the work they did on something else. Make it brief and move on. If it’s positive feedback, it’s fine to let others overhear it. If it’s negative or corrective, do it in private.
You don’t need to have a full conversation over it. Let the employee absorb and think about it. You can bring it up later if you think they need more explanation or reinforcement. Think of a ship. The captain is constantly making small changes to account for changing currents and winds. Rarely do they make a drastic change in direction except in an emergency. People accept incremental changes better than big changes. Also, you need to repeat a message several times before some people absorb them. On the other hand, if it’s repeated too often, it can get ignored.
Answer The Why. Give your employee the answer to why the issue is important. People will do just about anything if they understand the why behind it, especially if you can connect it to why it is important for them. Whether it’s continued employment, pay raise, bonus or just satisfaction, employees need to justify to themselves why they need to change.
Keep Track. Try to keep track of the feedback you give each employee as soon as you can. For example, you may keep a file on each employee with comments you’ve made to them. Review it on a regular basis to see if they’ve been following up on your comments and changing behavior. Positive feedback should spur them to do more of the things they received praise for. Corrective feedback should curb bad behavior, if not eliminate it completely. Plus, it will make your annual review easier.
Keep in mind the root word here: feed. Your comments should feed your employee’s growth. It should help them and the organization grow and expand. Practice doing this on a routine basis, at least once a week. After a while, you’ll get better at it, and it will become a habit. Also, you will find your annual review will become a smoother and more comfortable experience for everyone. Even better, you should see measured improvement over the long term.