Monday, February 22, 2010

How to give employees helpful feedback.

Post 432 - "Feedback is the breakfast of champions," according to management guru Ken Blanchard. I get a lot of questions from friends and clients about how to give feedback to the people who work with them. Here are some tips to consider:

* Focus your conversation on business outcomes. Explain what the company needs — talent development, sales growth, improved service — and frame your feedback about improved ways to reach those outcomes.

* Always give regular and consistent feedback to employees who work for you and give it often. When feedback is reserved for annual or semi-annual reviews, it's rarely received well. If you give feedback regularly, you'll be more practiced and your people will be more accustomed to hearing it. There should never be any surprises in a formal review.

* Identify the specific behavior that needs to change. State clearly what you want the person to do differently. Give illustrative examples that help the receiver understand exactly what you mean.

* Talk about the behavior, performance or attitude rather than the person.

* Think about your own learning style and contrast it with the other person's learning style. Are they visual, verbal, or tactile? Do they learn by reading and writing? Do they have language and cultural complexities? This will help to avoid the pitfall of explaining in a way only you would understand. Other people aren’t always like you!

* If you're giving feedback in a volatile situation, make sure you can recognize your own emotions, and take the time to calm down before giving feedback.

* Always start with at least two positive observations. This will start the meeting off on a good note.

* Give constructive feedback in private, never in a group. You wouldn't want to receive it in front of your staff either!

* Look at the person directly when you talk with them. If you avoid eye contact, they may think you're hiding something.

* Don’t apologize for bringing up anything that needs correction. Don’t say, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but ...”

* Give constructive feedback in an honest and diplomatic way. While pinpointing where you're not satisfied, be specific about what you want to see done and agree on a due date for follow up. The point of constructive feedback is to teach a new skill that remedies a deficiency.

* When you're done, ask if there are any questions. Always provide the opportunity to seek further knowledge or assistance.

* In the case of a particularly troublesome session, check in with the person involved before you leave for the day. You want to make sure they're not going home unhappy or disappointed.

The bottom line is that feedback changes behavior and behavior changes attitude. So make sure your feedback is actionable. Quantifiable feedback is the key to significant and lasting behavior change.

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