The Ledger No. 58: Giving Constructive Feedback

July 13, 2022 Sarah Dameron

Manager giving her employees constructive feedback

Welcome to The Ledger where we sum up the latest finance and accounting news and trends for you. On this week’s entry, we’re diving into the topic of how to give constructive feedback and spark a positive change in the workplace. Read on to explore what not to do when giving constructive feedback, how to give the best constructive feedback to your employees, how high-performing leaders embrace continuous feedback and understanding the importance of feedback delivery.

giving employees constructive feedback ledger

What Not to Do When Giving Constructive Feedback

We’ve all been there – your employee botches their report, presentation or is continually making mistakes that add up. As frustrating as that is, you know you need to follow up with them to provide constructive feedback. But the reality is, most leaders miss the opportunity to ask for the employee’s opinion and instead jump to conclusions. It’s a never-ending cycle that can cause more harm than good. The most effective way a leader can start that conversation is by asking, “How do you think it went?” This allows you to do the following:

  • Check self-awareness. Does your team member grasp where they went wrong or what caused this slip-up to happen? Before launching into all your criticisms, first understand their mindset.

  • Tailor your feedback. No one likes it when they’re told about their mistakes. It’s human nature. In fact, they probably already know what they did wrong. Instead of offering your input, focus on giving them what they need to be successful going forward.

Having a feedback conversation can be nerve-wracking – you don’t want to hammer on the issue, but you also want your worker to understand their mistake so that they do it right the next time. For more on how to listen first before responding, check out the full article on forbes.com.

Tips to Giving the Best Constructive Feedback to Your Employees

Feedback can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. But as a leader, it’s your job to deliver that feedback, whether good or bad. And due to its importance to the business, feedback can make you feel uneasy at times (although necessary). Consider this: in a work culture with continuous feedback, employees are 3.6 times more likely to do better work. Here’s the best strategies to implement when providing feedback:

  • Learn by example. Have you ever seen an instance of constructive feedback? If so, model it. Sure, being honest is great and yes, you should always converse with your team. But in all fairness, is that the best way to provide quality feedback?

  • Learn when to give feedback. There’s a time and place for giving feedback. It’s probably not during high-stress situations or right after the problem occurs. In fact, you should probably only speak when you know what you want to say – don’t let your emotions sway you.

  • Find a balance between the positive and negative. Whenever you want to criticize, point out the positives as well.

  • Refers to the SMART framework. Just like goals, your feedback should have a blueprint to go from – speak to your employees about what they should have created, how it was measured, what they are expected to achieve, why this is important and when it should be done.

  • Describe the situation and its impact. Does your employee understand the situation and its impact? When giving feedback, it’s vital that you describe what went wrong, what effect it had and then guide them towards a solution.

  • Don’t use the “feedback sandwich”. Don’t butter up your employees by praising them before giving them criticism. This can lead to misunderstandings and cause more contention than not.

  • Ask them for feedback. It’s not easy give feedback, but your employees might be more open to hearing feedback if they can give it back; it’s a two-way street.

To dive deeper into how to start giving the best constructive feedback to your employees, read the full article on swaay.com.

The Best Motivational Driver is Positive Feedback

Just like continual learning is a great engagement driver, so is positive feedback. Ongoing feedback allows employees to not only grow in their professional career, but it allows them to be more connected and engaged at work. The reality is, employees want to know if they are on the right track. They want to be appreciated. They want to be recognized. A lack of feedback breeds discontentment and leads to a communication disconnect (which can ultimately sever ties between an employee and employer). Here’s how to increase your effectiveness at giving feedback:

  • Celebrate in public. Allow the entire team or company to witness the acknowledgement, whether that’s verbally or through Slack or Microsoft Teams.

  • Criticize in private. Public shaming is never acceptable. If you know the feedback your about to give could be embarrassing or uncomfortable, set up a meeting.

  • Tell them your intentions. Make it clear that you intend to be helpful, not judgmental. After all, making a mistake is learning curve.

  • Be specific. Your feedback should be constructive, not vague. Help your employee understand the effects of the mistake.

  • Give constructive suggestions. Feedback should be a stepping stone towards a solution. Show support by talking it through and be open to hearing their perspective.

For more on how to provide your team with continuous feedback, check out the full article on inc.com.

The Importance of Delivering Feedback: How to be an Ally

Telling someone they’re not good enough can be a blow to their ego. In fact, harsh (and unproductive) feedback can be a setback for many teams. Peter Bregman and Howie Jacobson, contributors to the Harvard Business Review, said it best: “Over the past 30 years, companies have been so focused on creating cultures of feedback, that we’ve forgotten why we’re doing it in the first place. [However,] feedback rarely, if ever, achieves its desired objectives.” No one likes to feel as if they’ve missed the mark. In fact, “Focusing people on their short comings or gaps doesn’t enable learning [no matter how well intentioned]. It impairs it.” (Source: Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall from Harvard Business Review). So how can leaders go beyond feedback and become an ally instead of a critic?

  • Show empathy. Let your employees know you understand the difficulties.

  • Express your confidence in them. Show that you believe in their abilities.

  • Offer to brainstorm together. First, ask them if that’s okay – you always want their permission before assuming.

Your team will start to excel when you remove the stigma around feedback and instead, approach feedback as an opportunity for conversation.

To discover how to deliver effective feedback, head over to fastcompany.com to check out the full article.

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