Feedback. It’s essential for creating a positive and nurturing culture that allows your employees to grow and thrive. In providing clear and constructive feedback, you’re helping guide and motivate your team, reducing opportunities for miscommunication and boosting productivity. But it doesn’t always feel like that. As managers, we know we need to give feedback, but it can feel a bit scary, a bit uncomfortable, and can be one of the things that keeps us awake at night. Be honest, how many times have you avoided giving feedback, or brushed it under the carpet, hoping it just resolves itself or disappears altogether?
Giving and receiving feedback needn’t be loaded with apprehension. Done in the right way, it’s a powerful tool, showing people that you care about them, personally and professionally. We should strive to create a culture of feedback within our organisations, where we aren’t reliant only on formal processes, such as performance reviews, but provide feedback continuously in the impromptu moments. In saying this, it’s essential that the recipient is in the right mindset to receive what you have to say.
At Realise, we provide specific coaching on how to create a feedback culture and how feedback can be best delivered. Here are some tips:
- Reframe the idea of feedback from positive/negative to reinforcing/redirecting. Thinking about feedback in this way automatically changes your approach and makes giving feedback a lot less intimidating. Reinforcing feedback (when we want someone to continue with a positive behaviour) can be delivered anytime, anywhere. Redirecting feedback (where we want someone to do less of one behaviour and more of another) should be slightly more considered.
- Think about timing. Is the person in the right mindset to receive the feedback? How are they feeling today? How are they feeling at this moment? We want to look for a neutral time where the feedback will be received as intended and not in a time of heightened emotion.
- What’s your goal? Think about the purpose of your feedback and be prepared with specific examples that will help guide future behaviour. Hearing that you did a good job is great, but what specifically did you see that you would like repeated or to see more of moving forward? This clarity will help the feedback become meaningful and purposeful.
- Feedback must be actionable. Forget broad, sweeping statements. Employees must be able to see that your feedback allows them to improve and reach their goals by taking action. For example, if we want a colleague to be more vocal during team meetings, this needs to be framed positively and where the person can see what actions they need to take to achieve this. We want to avoid top-level feedback such as “you’re too quiet”; this type of feedback doesn’t provide enough detail on how to improve and so is demotivating in nature.
- Be aware of your biases. We all have conscious and unconscious biases, so it’s important to think about whether you would provide the same feedback to another team member. Research has shown that, in providing feedback to male and female colleagues of the same seniority, we are more inclined to provide warmer and kinder feedback to women than we are to men. And while kindness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a desire to be kind can inflate or misconstrue feedback, making it less actionable and less helpful. Similarly, feedback without kindness can be detrimental to someone’s wellbeing and mental health, so it’s important we’re conscious of our biases and look to strike a balance wherever we can.
- And finally… ask for feedback from others. If there’s one way to diffuse the tension around giving feedback, it’s to receive it more regularly. The more you have feedback conversations and the more it’s embedded within your culture, the less stressful it’ll be. Of course, not every situation requires feedback, but it should be the norm. Feedback helps everyone grow and develop.