Giving Specific Employee Feedback for Optimal Performance

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Giving specific employee feedback is a key leadership skill that is necessary to ensure optimal performance in your team.

And yet, it’s one that so many people still struggle with.

Recently, someone told me that they have an employee they want to let go of due to performance challenges. When I asked how this has been addressed with the employee, they told me that it hasn’t been.

Giving Specific Employee Feedback for Optimal Performance

I’m gonna be blunt here. 

If you’re dealing with employee performance issues but you haven’t ever discussed your concerns directly with the employee, then you’re part of the problem.

Wait.  Don’t leave just yet.

I say this with no judgment.  I know firsthand how challenging and awkward these conversations can be.

But learning to successfully lead these types of awkward conversations is part of your responsibility as a leader or manager of a team.  It’s also what will help resolve performance issues. 

And there’s more.  It’s not just that you can learn to have these types of conversations.  You can actually start to excel at them by learning to give specific employee feedback that will set your team members up for optimal performance without all of the friction that you dread.

Understanding some of the key elements required to give employee feedback in a way that will truly improve performance will not only help you during annual performance reviews.  It will also help you to successfully address even minor performance issues on an ongoing basis.

Giving Specific Employee Feedback for Optimal Performance

Here are some questions you may consider asking yourself before you decide to provide feedback to your employee.

1. Is feedback truly necessary?

Know your own style to help you determine when feedback is truly necessary.  Do you tend to micromanage your employees and give constant feedback?  If so, it may be worth considering skipping the feedback at times.  However, if your natural style is to avoid giving feedback when necessary, then you may need to push yourself to have these conversations more often.

Tip:  Address issues that are truly having a negative impact on performance early on.

2. Is my feedback aimed at the behaviour rather than the person?

Successful employee feedback is never done in a way that is belittling or demeaning.  No matter how significant of a performance issue you’re dealing with, separate the person from the behaviour.  This allows you to provide feedback in as constructive of a manner as possible. 

Tip: Don’t use adjectives to describe the person.  Describe observable facts and the impact of what has happened.

3. How can I deliver specific feedback?

Feedback needs to be specific enough that the person understands exactly what it is that they need to improve. For example, telling somebody they need to do better on their sales next month lets them know what the end goal is.  But this type of feedback isn’t specific enough.  In fact, it doesn’t provide any feedback regarding the individual’s performance.  It simply shares a measure of the outcome of their performance.

Tip:  Effective feedback helps the person understand the behaviour they need to work on to improve.

4. How can I gear the conversation towards solutions?

Avoid criticizing, complaining and sharing laundry lists of everything someone did wrong.  Instead, gear the conversation towards solutions.  After sharing your observations and listening to the other person’s point of view, help them to work towards what can be done to not reproduce the same situation.

Tip:  Working together to finding solutions will leave employees feeling more supported and motivated to grow.

5. Is the advice I am sharing actionable?

You’ve shared specific feedback with your employee and have discussed solutions to move forward.  But how are you going to ensure that this behavioural change actually takes place?  You need to sit down and determine the steps needed to learn and integrate this new skill or behaviour into the workplace. In what context is the person going to learn this new skill?  Who is going to support them?  At what date will you revise progress together?  This needs to be discussed collaboratively.

Tip:  Develop a plan withyour employee to ensure that he/she has the supports needed to implement the desired behavioural change.

Providing effective employee feedback doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems.  If you can shift how you view it, from a manager who has to scold their employee, to two people who are working together to find a solution to a problem, you just might find that you both learn and grow through the process. 

If you liked this post, you might also like:

How Do You Deal with Someone Who Is Overreacting At Work?

Why Blaming Doesn’t Work and What You Can Do Differently

Is Your Team Scared to Say What Needs to Be Said at Work?

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette, M.Sc.(A) works with middle managers who want to communicate authentically so they can effectively lead their teams without losing themselves. As a former Speech-Language Pathologist, Lindsay applies her expertise in the neuroscience of communication and connection to help managers foster an environment of trust and respect in their teams, so that everyone can bring their best selves to work.

Lindsay’s approach has been profoundly influenced by her work with First Nations organizations, her experience as a parent to two neurodivergent children, and the premature loss of both of her parents. These experiences have taught Lindsay great lessons about the power of excellent people skills that extend well beyond her professional expertise.

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette, M.Sc.(A) works with middle managers who want to communicate authentically so they can effectively lead their teams without losing themselves. As a former Speech Language Pathologist, Lindsay applies her expertise in the neuroscience of communication and connection to help managers foster an environment of trust and respect in their teams, so that everyone can bring their best selves to work.

Lindsay’s approach has been profoundly influenced by her work with First Nations organizations, her experience as a parent to two children with pervasive mental health challenges, and the premature loss of both of her parents. These experiences have taught Lindsay great lessons about the power of excellent people skills that extend well beyond her professional expertise.

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Hi, I'm Lindsay

Leadership communication skills to elevate team performance.

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