Giving Effective Feedback and Counseling Employees
Posted: 01/05/2010 4:53:00 PM EST | 4
Constructive feedback, both positive and negative, is crucial to an employee’s development and performance. Feedback should be given as frequently as possible, both formally through the annual performance review, but also informally through ongoing conversations and coaching. Managers really lose a golden opportunity to motivate their employees if they forget to praise an employee on doing a great job, or ineffectively praise the employee by providing no personalized examples of how that employee performed well. On the other hand, there is nothing quite as disheartening as learning for the first time during an annual review that some aspect of your performance has been lacking for the past six months, but you were never notified. Feedback gives employees the opportunity to change behavior and also to charge forward; but if they don’t know, how can we expect them to perform to their full potential?
Perhaps many managers shy away from giving feedback because, for most people, talking about someone else’s performance is uncomfortable. Let’s break it down so that the feedback conversation can be more comfortable and effective for both the manager and the employee.
Here are some hints on how to give constructive feedback in a meaningful way:
- Set the Stage—Positive feedback can be given in public, but negative feedback should be given privately. Determine a location with limited distractions (i.e. phone, interruptions, noise, etc. and turn off your cell phone).
- Be Timely—In order for feedback to be effective, it should be given right after an action occurs.
- Be Prepared—Prepare in advance what you want to say. Don’t launch into a feedback session unprepared, as your message will likely get muddled and you’ll be thrown off track. If you find it helpful, bring your notes into the meeting to keep the conversation on track.
- Be Clear, Specific and Consistent—Make sure your words, body language and tone all reflect the same message. Provide specific examples so that the employee can fully understand what you are telling him or her; “You did a great job presenting that material in the meeting! It was clear, concise and informative and you were also well prepared with the answers when the more detailed questions were asked.”
- Make it about the Behavior—Feedback should always be about “behavior” and not about the person. Feedback should be based on facts, not assumptions or hearsay. Some effective frameworks for the feedback might be:
Framework One Framework Two When you do _______, Describe the behaviors It causes/produces _______, Identify the situation I’d like it if you could ________. Describe the impact/consequences Discuss alternative behaviors
- Listen Actively and Attentively—Encourage the employee to provide his/her input to the situation; however you should not put yourself in a position to defend your feedback. Actively listen to the employee when he or she talks, keeping in mind that your non-verbal, as well as verbal behavior is important to how the employee views your commitment to him or her. Listen beyond the words to hear the deeper meaning of what the employee is trying to say.
- Document—For formal feedback discussions, be sure to document the conversation with the date, nature of discussion and outcomes to avoid any surprises at the time of the performance evaluation. You may or may not need to provide such documentation for informal feedback.
Remember, the goal of performance feedback and counseling conversations is always to work with the employee to improve their performance, in a dignified, constructive manner and to reward them for a job well done!
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This article is well done. It is critical for managers to recognize that providing feedback during the Performance Review process is very important. Open, honest, and candid dialogue creates, opportunities for effective growth and development. By helping the employee gain an understanding of how their performance can be improved, success can be achieved. Followup throughout the year (every 90-days at a minimum) will keep the feedback given during these discussions from being a total surprise to the employee (see Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations by authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler).
Nancy - Thanks for a thorough and thoughtful summary of feedback-giving practices. I would add a couple thoughts. In terms of preparation I encourage my clients to keep a feedback folder for each direct report. Throughout the year as the employee gets positive or negative feedback in email format, print and save in the folder. If you observe the employee doing something good or bad, tell them about it immediately, and also save a note in their folder. Many managers find it daunting to get to the year-end review, have conviction about their rating, but few data points to back it up. Second idea is at the conclusion of the feedback, ask the employee to play it back. I recommend this because some folks filter out good news and over-focus on the negatives, while others hear only affirming praise. As a manager listens to the playback he or she can re-emphasize any missing pieces.
As for Doug's comment, I suspect he has either been the victim of poorly-delivered feedback over his career, or he has worked in companies where feedback is rich and timely, making the year-end process redundant. I would put money on the first interpretation...
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