Feedback is one of the most powerful tools a leader has in their toolbox.
The feedback a team receives in the workplace can help them understand their strengths and weaknesses and achieve their potential and desired business outcomes.
When positive, it can show employees that they are on the right track and motivate them to achieve still more.
When negative, while it may initially cause some concern, it can represent an excellent avenue for development.
However, to achieve these positive outcomes, feedback must be delivered in a constructive, intelligent, and supportive way.
A steady flow of feedback from leaders to their teams cultivates a feeling of engagement and belonging among team members. It has been reported that a staggering 96% of employees want to receive regular feedback.
The key advantages of feedback
Constructive feedback, both positive and negative, can have wide-ranging benefits for your organization. In particular, feedback can:
- Increase staff retention. Patting your employees on the back and telling them they are doing well is hugely motivational and will help you retain their talent. Also, insightful negative feedback can give them the guidance they need to improve and get more out of their role. Everyone enjoys seeing themselves progress, so regular feedback can help employees view their employment as an upward trajectory.
- Improve business outcomes. You will only be able to optimize results for your organization if your team understands what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong, and what they should be doing instead. Explaining to your team why their work is strong or weak will help them get on the right page and contribute more meaningfully.
- Boost productivity. More feedback encourages greater accountability and initiative. A lack of feedback can leave your team feeling adrift. They may start to wonder if they’re doing the right thing and whether they should be behaving differently and in what way. Constructive feedback provides employees with invaluable guide ropes and precisely lets them know what is required of them.
Three steps to giving successful feedback
We have seen how important good feedback is, so what can you do to ensure your feedback is constructive?
Less than a third of employees report receiving feedback that helps them improve. Feedback in itself is not enough; you need to adopt a straightforward, well-thought-through approach.
Start with positivity. What is this member of your team doing well, and for what efforts can you thank them?
If you only have positive feedback, be sure to emphasize why their work is so valuable and what it has helped the team or organization achieve. You may wish to say something like, ‘Your ability to link marketing strategies to the features of our new product got people’s attention in the sales pitch.’
If you need to provide some negative feedback, beginning with a positive will make your team member more receptive to subsequent commentary. Immediately telling someone that their work isn’t up to scratch will likely put them on the defensive. Instead, praise them, for instance, for the time they devoted to their work and then highlight a few areas for improvement. For example, say something like, ‘I noticed that you spent considerable time on this, thank you for all your hard work. I did want to go over a few areas with you to see if they could be stronger.’
2- Specificity and objectivity
Constructive feedback is specific feedback. Generalizations, both positive and negative, do not tell people exactly what they are getting right or wrong. If you enjoyed a team member’s presentation, tell them why. Perhaps it was the way they explained complex concepts or their preparedness for questions? Saying well done is great for morale, but it won’t help them repeat their success.
Also, be sure to highlight the facts, especially if you are delivering negative feedback. Stay objective and keep your emotions in check. For instance, you could say, ‘Thank you for taking that call. For future calls, it is always better to introduce yourself to the customer before asking what they need,’ rather than, ‘I didn’t like how you started that last call.’
Being specific and objective will give your team the detail and perspective they need to understand their performance in the workplace.
The final step in providing successful feedback is to include the actions people can take to address the issues you raised. Give your team members advice and guidance about what they can do next.
If you are unhappy with how a team member speaks with clients on the phone, don’t simply tell them you don’t like their phone manner. Instead, discuss the different techniques and tricks that could improve their performance on the telephone. Perhaps it is as simple as asking them to refer to a sales script.
Constructive feedback helps leaders, their teams, and organizations achieve more. By following the above three steps, you will be better able to deliver feedback that your team will value, absorb, and take action.