It's mid-year review season, and while we, at Baudville, would never suggest that you only give feedback twice a year, it is certainly one of the times of year when it is most common. Are you about to be giving one-on-one feedback to your team? Are you prepared? Does any part of the process make you feel uncomfortable? If so, read on! We'll help you feel at ease.
As you consider your team, you're probably thinking about the conversations that are going to be easy and the ones that are going to be more difficult. But just because the easy ones don't make you sweat doesn't mean you shouldn't do a little heavy lifting to get the words just right. That said, let's start with negative feedback and work our way to the positive.
First, Do No Harm. If you're in a place that you need to give corrective or negative feedback, then you goal is to salvage the professional relationship. You want to show them how their performance could improve—not show them the door. So, how do you navigate this situation?
• Be direct. If you sugarcoat your feedback, you'll not only dilute the message, you could potentially create confusion about what's more significant. It might seem easier to soften the conversation, but, in doing so, you won't really be helping anyone (except maybe making yourself feel better, which is not at all why the conversation is taking place.)
• Create expectations. Illuminating the problem is only part of the job of giving feedback. Once you've identified the objectionable behavior or action, you need to provide a path to remedy the situation. You may set conditions or milestones that need to be met to gauge improvement.
• Invite input. One-way conversations aren't really conversations, are they? When you give feedback, ask for some back. You might ask, "What ideas do you have that might aid in your progress?” or "What ways can I help you be more successful?” Allowing your employees to reflect on and respond to your critiques will make them feel more engaged in the solution.
Do Right by the Good. With so much attention focused on to how to give negative feedback, poor old positive reinforcement doesn't get much love. In fact, when things are going right, you might be so happy (or relieved) that you forget to praise the good. Or, if you do have good words, you may feel flippant about giving them because they come so easily. Here's how to give positive feedback the weight it needs:
• Be explicit. While there's nothing wrong with a generic "great job," you'll get more mileage out of a more specific message. Great job doing…? Nice work on…? Thank you for…? Fill in that blank, and you provide clarity on what matters to you.
• Make connections. In a recent RecogNation article , we talked about purpose—understanding why we do what we do and what business result our work has. When giving praise, correlate the good work with the positive outcome you anticipate.
• Express appreciation. Make praise more meaningful by pairing it with a heartfelt "thank you." Simple as that.
In the end, what's important to remember is that both positive and negative feedback are tools for getting results. They both have their place, and both have the ability to set your team members on a course for success.
• Don't wait for a whopper. If you give directive feedback regularly, you can guide your employees in the direction you want them to go—and avoid it going to a negative place altogether. You'll also ensure there are no surprises.
• Hold the cheese.
Whether it's positive or negative, it's important that your feedback be professional and sincere.
• There are times to super-size. And times not to. In other words, pick your battles (and victories). Too much praise can seem insincere; too much criticism can feel abusive. You want your feedback to be taken seriously, after all.