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.
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.
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.
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