Giving constructive feedback to employees may seem like one of your most difficult tasks as a manager. Just thinking about it can conjure up images of emotional breakdowns and inflamed tempers. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you learn to give constructive feedback effectively, you can avoid the drama and instead have an insightful conversation with your employee about their performance, and how they can improve it. Follow these steps:
- Scheduling a one-on-one feedback session
Whether in your office, an empty meeting room or a coffee shop, it’s best to give constructive feedback privately. If you give your employee constructive criticism in front of others it can undermine their confidence and put them on the defensive. When asking your employee to meet with you, be sure to frame it in a way that doesn’t cause them to become nervous. In most employees’ minds, being asked to meet in private with their manager could flare warning signs about what’s to come, shedding a negative light on the conversation before it even starts.
Instead of saying, “can you come to my office so we can discuss your performance”, ask if you can catch up later to discuss their progress. Keeping your request informal and positive will make sure they feel more relaxed about the prospect of meeting up with you one-on-one. Read further on how to lead effective one-on-ones.
- Tone and Delivery
Using the correct tone and delivery is the most important step to giving effective feedback. Keep in mind the following guidelines:
Balance your constructive feedback by leading the conversation with something they’re doing well. This will give them an example of what you’re expectations are and boost their confidence. Make it clear you want to help them continue performing and developing these types of skills. Avoid using words like “but”, “however” and “although” to link your positive and constructive feedback. Saying, “I like the way you communicate with others but…” will signal to them that your positive feedback may not be sincere.
Be clear and specific
It’s important to clearly explain why this is hurting their performance. The best way to do this is to provide actionable feedback and specific examples. Saying, “you need to close more sales,” won’t give your employee enough information. If instead you say, “I’ve noticed that when speaking with customers you sometimes miss the opportunity to tell them about…” This statement encourages them to recall their past conversations with customers and think about what actions they could take to change their performance.
Frame your feedback using a growth mindset
Remember that the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset is that people with a fixed mindset see their abilities as static so feedback can often be seen as a personal attack. Framing your feedback in a way that focuses on behavior rather than traits emphasizes that you are drawing their attention to certain areas because you believe it will help them improve their performance. The safest way to avoid this is to make statements based on facts and observations.
- Don’t overdo it
Though you may see several areas your employee needs to work on, overloading them with feedback could overwhelm them. Avoid confusion by focusing on improving one or two areas at a time. Wondering what you should target first? Chief Revenue Officer at Hubspot, Mark Roberge, suggests using what he calls metrics-driven sales coaching. This method evolved from his experience taking golf lessons. Most golf instructors would tell him to turn his grip, change his stance, shift his weight and turn his wrist to improve his swing. This became confusing and didn’t lead to any improvement. Instead, one instructor had him turn his grip and practice his swing one hundred times. Then he continued to add and practice one new skill at a time until he finally saw results. Analyzing metrics of your employee’s performance will help you decide which skill to work on first.
- Find a solution together
Give your employees a chance to respond to your comments so you can see it from their perspective and properly address the situation. Remember your job is to give them perspective on their actions. For example, maybe one of their co-workers complained that they’re irritable and difficult to work with because they raise their voice during team meetings. The employee in question may explain that this is simply the way they speak when under stress. This not only gives them a chance to respond, but also to process your feedback.
Once you’ve gathered the facts create a plan together. Give suggestions of ways they could adjust their performance and ask what steps they think they could take. This is also a good way to make sure they understood and will take steps to change their behavior.
Ask for advice on how you as their manager can help them to achieve this goal. This will reinforce your willingness to help them and demonstrate your receptiveness to receiving feedback yourself. You can also suggest finding an external mentor who may have a more neutral perspective.
- Follow up by recognizing achievements
One question managers often struggle with is how to follow up without feeling like you’re micromanaging. If you confirmed your employee understood your feedback during the meeting, and you created some clear goals and objectives together, you should be able to step back and let them implement these changes. The best way to show them they’re on the right track is to follow up by recognizing when they’ve implemented changes effectively with positive feedback and encouragement.