Feedback is crucial for helping employees grow, but it’s often confused with criticism. The problem is that if you aren’t aware of the characteristics of good feedback, you could end up doing more harm than good.
Sometimes the most well-intentioned advice can sound like judgment if presented incorrectly.
In addition, if a team member doesn’t understand the purpose of the feedback, they’re likely to feel defensive or be mistrustful of the process. And in such cases, they may tune out even the best advice or ignore it altogether.
This is more likely to happen if you don’t make it crystal clear whether the purpose of the meeting is to provide helpful feedback or to discipline them. If they assume the worst, they may suspect that you are building a case to terminate their employment.
Ultimately, if giving feedback isn’t handled carefully, the process can strain relationships and hurt team morale. Instead of improving performance as intended, it could lead to further decline.
The good news is that if you apply the characteristics of good feedback, you can create a positive experience.
When you approach it with the mindset that it’s an opportunity for the employee to learn, you’ll build their confidence and help them succeed.
“Feedback turns good into better and better into best.”— Frank Sonnenberg, Listen to Your Conscience: That’s Why You Have One.
How to Approach a Feedback Meeting the Right Way
First things first—a feedback meeting won’t be successful if you aren’t clear about your objectives going in. So, prepare carefully for the meeting. The aim is to create a safe, productive environment to deliver input.
Before talking to the employee, ask yourself why you need to provide feedback. Do you think it will help this person in their role and help the company improve? Or do they just do things differently than you?
Feedback is effective when it is in service of a larger goal. Approach the conversation as a chance to give advice that will help this person succeed in the future.
It’s also essential to gather and review the facts that prompted the meeting. This will help you be clear on approaching the discussion and communicating the changes you expect the team member to make.
5 Characteristics of Good Feedback to Apply
Once you’re prepared for your meeting, you want to be sure to present your feedback in the best way possible. In doing so, you can increase the chances of your team member applying that input moving forward. So, here are 5 characteristics of good feedback to keep in mind.
1. Good Feedback Is Timely
One of the most critical characteristics of good feedback is timeliness. You want your input to be relevant to your team member’s current performance. So, don’t wait too long to provide feedback. In six weeks, you and the team member may have already forgotten what happened. Moreover, the longer you wait to address an issue or offer recommendations, the harder it will be for your team member to make the necessary changes.
That said, you also need to wait for the opportune moment to give feedback. Telling someone their presentation is going poorly while it’s in progress is embarrassing for everyone. Create time for a one-on-one meeting away from distractions to have a calm and productive conversation (not a lecture).
2. Good Feedback Is Insightful
The purpose of feedback isn’t to criticize the employee. It’s to provide insight and remind them of their strengths. Let them know how to complement those strengths with new skills. Always conclude by noting something about their conduct or performance that they excelled at.
That doesn’t mean you should sugarcoat it hoping to make them feel better. It will only confuse them.
- On the one hand, they may think you don’t take it seriously.
- On the other, they may be distrustful of your intentions.
That’s why it’s crucial to be clear and specific about exactly what you expect them to improve without being judgmental. Good feedback means providing insight.
Frame your feedback as a learning opportunity. Everyone has experienced the feeling of failure many times in their career. So, they are not alone. The important thing is to understand how to deal with setbacks and to use them as an opportunity to improve.
It’s difficult to know how people might react to feedback. Many people will apply it and grow, but some may ignore it. But if you create a culture that promotes learning, your team members will be more likely to welcome effective feedback as a positive experience.
3. Good Feedback Is Constructive (Not Critical)
Begin by asking the employee how they feel they’re doing, especially surrounding the particular event or project. Use that answer to get a sense of whether they are open to further discussion. It’s possible the team member already knows what needs improvement and will welcome suggestions.
Bear in mind that you may not always be the right person to talk to. An immediate supervisor, or someone the employee has a good working relationship with, might be a better choice.
There is a world of difference between telling someone they aren’t a good salesperson and advising them they aren’t hitting their targets.
So, one of the essential characteristics of good feedback is focusing on performance and how the team member can take steps to improve it.
Focusing on the problem at hand and not assuming they are incompetent or malicious will allow you to get to the root and find a solution. Perhaps more importantly, you will have an employee who leaves the room with their self-esteem intact and who is motivated to succeed.
“Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.”— Anton “Doc” Rivers, Head Coach, Philadelphia 76ers
4. Good Feedback Is Collaborative
Being part of a valued team requires collaboration and cooperation at all times. Employees have different perspectives, ideas, and experiences. After all, that’s why you hired them in the first place.
Failing to acknowledge the employee’s ideas may lead you to miss valuable information that could improve their performance.
So, before launching into your list of expectations, make sure you fully understand the situation as they see it.
Do they think they would benefit from training in a specific area?
Is something happening outside work that affects their ability to perform well?
Is there something happening in the market that explains a drop in sales?
Knowing these answers will help you find an effective solution together, such as overcoming a seemingly insurmountable problem or taking a different approach.
Moreover, we are all human, and no matter how well we reason, we also have emotions. If your employee doesn’t feel that you are listening, it will only frustrate them. It may even be beneficial to let them vent their frustrations. It’s like a pressure cooker. Speaking out about a problem that seems to be controlling someone’s life can make it evaporate.
If they have differences with a colleague or even a supervisor, you may be able to do more than you think to resolve the issue. It’s not about taking sides. It’s about making your team function properly.
Of course, it’s important to set boundaries defining what you are willing to discuss.
It’s also important to remember an inevitable power dynamic exists between a supervisor and a team member. They may not be ready to volunteer information without prompting. If they are not forthcoming, open the floor to them to allow them to do so.
The bottom line is one of the characteristics of good feedback is collaboration—working together to find solutions that everyone buys into. And if they do, they will be much more motivated to make the changes you expect of them.
5. Good Feedback Is Actionable
Finally, it’s time to leave with a positive tone and define how the future should look. After discussing what happened, provide an example of how the ideal situation looks. Walk through how it might go in the future.
If the feedback warrants follow-up, create specific goals to work toward. One of the characteristics of good feedback is that it’s actionable. So, you need to develop a simple, actionable plan that clearly identifies the following:
- Performance issues that need improvement
- What the expectations are
- How to achieve the mutually agreed goals
- A timeline to reach the targets
Don’t forget to set a follow-up meeting to review progress on the action plan and revise it if necessary. The plan is not cast in stone or a tool to bludgeon employees if they don’t step up. It’s a guide to help them succeed and get the results you need.
It’s easy to talk about being a team when things are going well. But if someone is struggling to perform as required, it is just as easy to forget and consider them a problem that you have to fix. As long as they are part of the team, they should be treated that way.
The truth is that employees are human and, as such, have emotions, opinions, and experiences you can’t control. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have expectations of them. After all, the rest of the team depends on them to get the job done.
Feedback should be a two-way process focused on ways to help them meet their job requirements. As such, focus on performance, respect the team member’s ideas, and agree on a plan to improve. Most importantly, apply the characteristics of good feedback mentioned above each time you sit down with an employee.
Ideally, your team member will leave the meeting motivated, with a firm understanding of how they can achieve your mutually agreed goals. That way, your team can work together to help your business succeed.
At Viral Solutions we are committed to seeing YOU succeed. It is our goal to grow your business with proven digital marketing strategies that will help your business for the long haul.
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Filed Under: Analytics Tagged With: culture, employee morale, employee relations