We all know that giving effective feedback is an essential skill for leaders. Yet, when communication is disturbed by masks and smartphone screens, interpersonal skills are more valuable than ever.
There’s no other factor determining teamwork as much as communication. One of its basic components is skilful feedback. It’s known that effective feedback is a basic skill for team leaders and members. But it’s not always easy to learn that ability, and the consequences of inadequate feedback can be irreversible.
If not delivered carefully, feedback can sometimes do more harm than good. Namely, our intentions can be misinterpreted, and the person may feel offended. As a result, it could lead to reduced morale and lower workplace performance.
On the other hand, feedback is the basis for building a productive, well-coordinated and effective team. Skilful communication via effective feedback can lead individuals to flourish. Moreover, it can strengthen ties and cooperation skills within the team. This in turn translates into immeasurable benefits and a better working atmosphere.
There’s no doubt that skilful feedback is a key factor in building a harmonious team. It’s worth keeping an eye on the importance and appropriate provision of such information.
So what makes feedback useful, and how to ensure you deliver it well?
How to give feedback: Keep it simple and to the point
Feedback is an essential factor in building trust and confidence at work. To be effective, it needs to have meaning, clarity, and purpose. It has to provide logical connections and lead to a particular goal related to self-development. It’s not easy to master this art, but you can perfect it if you follow specific feedback guidelines.
Personalised, timely, and meaningful
Feedback requires learning context and therefore needs to be specific to a given case. There’s no advantage to generalities and obviousness. When it comes to feedback timing, it’s not as obvious as you may think. While employees may prefer instantaneous feedback, in some cases having time to think about difficult tasks before receiving the evaluation can benefit the results.
Goal-oriented and self-regulatory
Feedback should encourage the employee’s self-regulation by enhancing self-efficacy and self-esteem. It should also be goal-focused, as this is the aim that should underpin effective feedback strategy and delivery. With this objective and employee self-efficacy in mind, we can define the main principles of the given feedback more effectively.
Manageable with low task complexity
Feedback should address tasks of low complexity. Goals should be broken down into manageable chunks, as this increases the effectiveness of feedback. The main goals and assumptions should be ambitious, but ensure that the daily tasks and corrections are achievable and motivating.
Keep your feedback forward-looking and search for opportunities rather than slip-ups. This way, you’ll keep the recipient motivated rather than discouraged. By going back to the past and focusing excessively on aspects that need to be improved, we deviate from the main goal of our feedback, and also demotivate the person receiving it.
Powered by technology
Used appropriately, technology can improve feedback in many aspects. It can help to provide timely feedback, improve collaboration, increase social presence, increase dialogue, improve reflection, support learning principles, and increase employee satisfaction. Consider using the technologies available at your workplace to optimise technology in providing feedback to employees.
For example, using kanban boards like Jira can make leaving team feedback simpler. These platforms actively encourage the celebration of successes and achieving both team and personal goals. For more informal feedback, use internal communication tools that allow you to communicate in a comfortable, intuitive way. One of the most popular choices is Slack.
Different feedback techniques
Keep the sandwich for lunch and try one of these feedback techniques instead
Have you ever used the ‘sandwich’ technique to give feedback? Many leaders decide on implementing this approach to provide negative feedback. It’s a popular method, but the sandwich approach may weaken both your feedback and your relationship with the recipient.
The main idea behind this approach is to ‘sandwich’ the negative evaluation between two flattering statements, which doesn’t necessarily support the future growth of the recipient. They miss the chance to truly understand what they can do differently or better in the future. Moreover, both the positive and the negative feedback would lose all impact if structured that way.
Luckily, there are a few tips and alternative strategies that will take your feedback skills to new heights.
The technique created by Marshall Goldsmith focuses on future possibilities rather than past events. Its main principle is that individuals can’t change their past behaviour, but they can modify their current habits.
That technique is motivating and empowering as it encourages immediate action. It allows tackling the same issues but in a more positive manner. What’s more, people usually don’t take it personally. Instead, they gain ideas for future growth, which is the essence of feedback.
This approach is relatively easy to adopt, and there are only two main rules to it. Start with identifying goals specific to the role and align them to company objectives. Then suggest ideas for how the person can meet those goals. Feed forward can promote a more vibrant and welcoming relationship within the team, improving individual and team performance.
What and why
This approach is simple and lets you offer direct and detailed feedback. It focuses on the situation instead of personal characteristics. As a result, it’s less likely for recipients to feel offended, and consequently, the likelihood of putting this advice into practice increases.
This is one of the easiest techniques to implement. When giving positive feedback, simply tell the person what they did and why it was good. In the case of providing negative feedback, say to the person what they did, but this time, explain why it was bad. And don’t forget to follow up with how they could improve in the future.
The five word performance review
The technique created by Paul English, co-founder of Kayak.com, is another easy approach to giving feedback. Compared to sometimes hair-raising traditional annual performance reviews, a simple tweak is a pleasant and uncomplicated way to give evaluation.
You simply describe the other person in five words and then go over those qualities during a coffee or other type of hour informal meeting. During the meeting, discuss each word’s meaning to make sure you’re on the same page. Remember to keep the ratio of positive to negative words fairly even and don’t be afraid to repeat or ask for an explanation!
The Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences (DESC) technique is another simple yet powerful way to communicate what you would like someone to do more, less, or differently. Similarly to feedforward, that approach focuses on the future as it refers to the past only to provide context. Its goal is to enhance the employee’s performance.
- Begin with a description of the observed behaviour and aim your attention on one recent action you have witnessed. Remember to focus on your feelings and observations rather than accusations.
- Then, articulate how this action impacts your daily life and specify what you would like them to do differently.
- Finally, share the potential outcomes of their behaviour change.
Created by Management 3.0, Feedback Wrap is a fresh and innovative variation of the classic ‘sandwich approach.’
- Start by providing context to increase the other person’s understanding and appreciation of the situation.
- Then, without accusations or specific examples, provide your observations. Let the other person know about your feelings towards the raw facts. Explain your needs because the other person may not recognise what’s relevant to you.
- In the end, leave some space for the recipient to figure out how to close the gap between needs and facts. In the meantime, you can propose a suggestion or two to move things forward.
Feedback is an essential part of an employee’s personal development. However, we can’t expect people to regulate their behaviour or way of working on their own. Skilful communication between the leader and the subordinate is able not only to lighten some shortcomings but also to reveal an employee’s hidden talents.
When delivering feedback, make sure you don’t bruise the other person’s feelings. It’ll make them more receptive to what you have to say.
Constructive feedback, when not carefully delivered, can negatively impact one’s well-being and consequently, performance. This is why we should tap into the power of proper techniques for giving empowering and motivating feedback.
About the Author
Weronika Cekala is a digital writer with expertise in communication, language localisation and journalism. At ResumeLab, she creates data-based content that promotes innovative solutions for job-seekers.