Thursday, June 16, 2011

Giving Feedback

One management skill I have found essential is giving feedback. Here are a few tips I have learned about giving feedback.

Don't be afraid
OK, this may seem obvious. Lets face it - giving feedback is awkward and hard. I think this stems from an innate desire to be liked. If you have to give corrective feedback, you run the risk of making the other person mad at you. Or hurt.

There aren't many things I can tell you about this. Well, actually there are *tons* of things I can tell you about, but that's not the point of this post... I will say this - don't own your employee's response. If you follow these guidelines you've done your part. If they are angry, hurt, or anything else - that is their feeling to own. Wow - I feel like I should be asking you for a therapy co-pay...

Give feedback as close to the event as possible
If someone is out of line at a meeting, call them out in front of their peers (if it is warranted) or pull them aside privately after the meeting. This is a delicate balance. The general rule is criticize in private. However, if someone crosses a line publicly, address it immediately.

It is important your team knows you won't tolerate this behavior and that you are addressing it. Of course, if someone is so out of line publicly, you probably have another issue...

Give feedback from the heart
Wow - can I get more touchy feely? Maybe not.

The point is to have your employee's best interest foremost in your mind. You have to care about your employee. Show her you are concerned for her professional growth and relationships.

There is a saying that "feedback from the heart penetrates the heart." I believe this. Your employee will sense if you are jumping on them to make a problem go away or if you are sincerely trying to improve their character.

Make sure you aren't angry when you give feedback. Think through why you are giving feedback.

Is it to show someone you have authority? Is it to feel better because you felt wronged?

Or is to help someone who is struggling to get better?

Be direct
Early in my career, I found all kinds of reasons to delay getting to the point. That doesn't work. I've found it best to be direct, factual, and brief. That last point is important.

When you are nervous, you may tend to keep talking. That dilutes the message. Your job is to provide feedback, not debate. If your employee makes excuses, listen but redirect him. Let him know you understand his point but see things differently. In other words, don't buy into the drama.

Offer alternatives
Mature employees may ask you what you would recommend they do differently when confronting similar situations. Be prepared to offer alternatives. Help them role play alternatives so they can build new coping skills.

If you prepare in advance, you will have empathy with their situation. You will be forced to consider their position. I've often found myself softening my position when I realized my employee's actions were not malicious.

Giving feedback can be daunting. If you approach it with the intent to improve your employee, you'll be fine.

Don't avoid giving advice. It will get easier over time.