How to give supportive feedback
Continuing with last week’s theme of conducting one to ones, the ability to give feedback is an important element.
Of course feedback shouldn’t be confined to these meetings; there are plenty of times throughout the day when it’s useful for people to hear how they’re doing, even if it’s simply acknowledging that we’re paying attention to them.
I was recently a guest on a webinar and was speaking on the topic of giving feedback on performance.
We did a poll at the start to ask if people felt they give or receive enough feedback. 80% responded NO. This stacks up with the feedback I hear from delegates on my workshops too.
I know I’ve written on this topic before and I make no apologies for doing so again as I believe giving supportive feedback is such an important skill for any line manager, mentor or coach. When done well, not only can it improve performance, but it can be a great morale booster too.
But, here are my before, during and after tips on giving supportive feedback on performance.
- Know what good looks like, so you know what benchmark you’re using for your feedback.
- Ensure all line managers are consistent in their expectations and messages; this is particularly important when team members report to different managers/supervisors on different shifts.
- Be clear on objectives/the outcome you were looking for as result of giving feedback; is it to see an improvement (if so in what way?) or are you aiming to show recognition for a job well done and boost morale.
- Spot people doing something right. Feedback on good performance is just as important as feedback when improvements might be needed.
- Timing is important. Ideally you want to feed back as soon as possible after the event you’re feeding back on. If you’re feeding back as part of a general review, choose the most recent examples.
- Consider moods/emotional states, both yours and theirs. If you’re frustrated or irritated by their performance, this will inevitably taint the feedback, so wait until you are in a better frame of mind.
- Equally, if they are in a negative state e.g. tired after a long shift, this might be fine for giving morale boosting feedback, but if you need to see an improvement in performance this is properly not the best time.
- Avoid fluff (see Fluff busting). Be specific and stick to the facts. If you need to deliver bad news, don’t fluff up the message in cotton wool.
- If you need to see an improvement, make sure this is clear. So avoid the praise sandwich.
- If you’re complimenting someone on a job well done, avoid diluting the impact by following up with “but ….”
- Make it a two-way conversation, asking for their comments and ideas on how to improve or build on their successes.
- Concentrate on your pitch and tone so that valuable information is not seen as a complaint, criticism, whinge or nag.
- Preserve the other person’s self esteem, by avoiding feedback on things out of their control, and deliver ‘bad’ news in a non-critical way.
- Tune into their reaction: watch for signs that they are confused, defensive, or worried, and address these concerns during the conversation.
- Demonstrate your trust in them. If they sense you have no faith in them, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Commitment: show your commitment and support for any actions needed following the discussion, and get their commitment on their part.
- Be prepared to invest time and attention in following up, otherwise it implies it’s not important.
- Monitor progress, offering support, guidance and coaching where it’s needed.
- Maintain momentum; you need to be confident that any changes aren’t just adhered to for the next two days, what about the next 2 weeks or next 2 months? It takes time to embed new habits.
- Recognise improvement or actions taken as a result of the feedback, and give praise where it’s due, so people feel proud of their progress/achievements. This means people will be more likely to be receptive to future feedback.
If you only do one thing
- Give a piece of supportive feedback today to at least one person in your team.