Making Feedback Effective
You should now know what skills are needed for coaching and counseling and when you should use each. Now you are ready to learn the most essential skill for becoming an effective coach or counselor - how to provide effective feedback that helps employees improve performance.
Whether you recognize it or not, you are constantly providing feedback. How you provide that feedback will often spell the difference between success or failure. The most vital thing to do before giving any feedback is to analyze your purpose in giving the feedback and to try to predict any outcomes that may occur. You may also look at your relationship with the employee, how much trust and goodwill has been built up between you, and how likely the employee is to hear different types of feedback. The key characteristic of effective feedback is that it is heard and utilized. It is the responsibility of the sender to deliver feedback in such a way that the employee can hear and use it.
Four Types of Feedback
- Criticism (Negative)
Type 1: Silence
No response provided
No news is not good news!
To maintain the status quo
Decreases confidence (long-term)
Reduces performance (long-term)
Creates surpises during performance appraisals
Can create paranoia and insecurity
Type 2: Criticism (Negative)
Identifies behaviors or results that were undesireable, not up to standard or expectations
Example: "Sue, you did a poor job running that meeting this morning."
To stop undesireable behavior/results
Ideally, should be used only if there is a major work violation - ignoring or breaking company policy, theft, drug abuse on the job, fighting, breaking the law, forgery, etc.
Works only on a temporary basis
Generates excuses and blaming of others
Tends to eliminate other related behaviors
Decrease confidence and self-esteem
Leads to escape and avoidance of mananger and work
Type 3: Advice
Identifies behaviors or results that are highly regarded, and often specifies how to incorporate them in the future
Example: "Sue, let's discuss some guidelines on conducting effective meetings before your next staff meeting so you can get buy-in on your goals."
Shape or change behavior/results to increase performance and to sustain desireable performance
Can improve relationship
Type 4: Reinforcement (Positive)
Identifies behaviors or results that were desired (up to or exceeding standards)
Example: "Sue, I noticed how you planned and posted an agenda before our meeting today. I really think it kept the meeting focused."
To increase desired performance/results
Increases the employee's willingness to take on new tasks and be more visible
Tips for successful feedback
- Make your feedback specific as related to behavior.
Good: "Harry, I am concerned about your punctuality. You have been 15 minutes late on the last three mornings. We need to discuss the consequences of this."
Bad: "Harry, you have a lousy attitude toward your job. "
- Consider your timing. Give either advice before the event, or positive feedback immediately after it.
Good: (advice before) "Tom, I'd like to review the content and style of your presentation with you before your speech next week so you can build a lot ofcredibility with our new customers and get them excited about our new products."
Bad: (criticism after) "Tom, because you've done such a poorjob in the past, 1 need to preview the speech you plan on giving next week."
Good: (positive after) "Tom, you did an outstanding job in organizing your presentation for the meeting. The speech was well-researched and logical."
- Consider the needs ofthe person receiving the feedback as well as your own. Ask yourself what he or she will get out of the information. Are you "dumping" or genuinely attempting to improve performance or the relationship?
Good: "Lisa, I know how important it is to you to get the company newsletterjust right, and 1 recognize you're under a lot ofpressure right now. I will help you edit it this one time, but I want you to take that editing class next month so you can handle it solo in the future."
Bad: "Lisa, you always need help with the newsletter. It's not my responsibility, it's yours. Don't you think it's about time you learned how to do your job right?"
- Focus on behavior the receiver can do something about.
Good: "Ted, we would appreciate you keeping the team informed about the status of the project. How about scheduling a weekly status meeting where you can review what's done and decide what needs to be done? This would keep us all focused and prevent duplication of effort."
Bad: "Ted, why are you so shy that you don't like to talk to other people?"
- Solicit feedback rather than impose it
Good: "Julie, 1 heard you say you would like to learn how to handle your most difficult customers more effectively. Would you like me to share some techniques 1 have seen work?"
Bad: "Julie, I saw the way you handled Mrs. Dawson during this crisis. She is our most important customer and you really blew her off. That's really stupid."
- Avoid labels and judgments by describing rather than evaluating behavior.
Good: "George, I have given you three chances to attend training programs in the last year and you haven't enrolled yet. What's getting in your way of taking advantage or these opportunities?"
Bad: "George, you are very lazy about improving your skills and don't seem to care about your career here. "
- Define the impact on you, the unit, the team, and the company.
Good: "Camille, when you don 't get your report to me on time, I can 't get my report to my boss on time .. This slows up decisions about resources neededfor next month."
Bad: "Camille, can't you ever get your act together? You are such a flake about meeting deadlines!"
- Use "I" statements as opposed to "you" statements to reduce defensiveness and ask for a change in behavior.
Good: "Tim, when you play your radio in the work area, 1 lose my concentration. Would you mind turning it off during regular work hours?"
Bad: "Tim, you are so inconsiderate of other people when you want to listen to your music. Nobody else likes to listen to that crap!"
- Check to be sure clear communication has occurred.
Good: "Linda, do you know the procedure for recording my phone messages? Can we go over the procedure to be sure 1 covered every thing?"
Bad: "Linda: got it, huh?"
- Give the feedback in a calm, unemotional language, tone, and body language.
Good: "John, I'm sure your progress will be much faster if you review the procedure manual on how to use this new machinery."
Bad: "John, can't you go any faster? "
Additional Points to Remember
- Reinforcement is the most effective form of feedback. Discipline yourself to catch employees doing things right and using their strengths. Compliment them when things do go right!
- Criticism is the most ineffective form of feedback. It can damage self-esteem, the employee's motivation, and the relationship. It can cause suspicion and distrust between the manager and employee.
- The difference between criticism and advice is a difference in timing. Most criticism can be reframed as advice before the desired performance is necessary. Advice improves performance and the relationship when the manager provides direction, structure, and advice before a task is required, rather than after. The employee sees the manager as helping them get something right, versus hurting them when they fail.
- When feedback is mixed, the impact is diluted. The employee ends up confused and not knowing what to do. They may not leave the discussion with a clear understanding of what to do differently. Managers need to ask employees what they heard during the feedback session, and what they will do differently as a result ofthe feedback.
- Criticism overpowers all other feedback. Feedback should build relationships, not destroy them. When criticism is overwhelming it can devastate an employee and result in the employee's resignation.
- Silence is not always "golden." It can be interpreted in a variety of ways based on the employee's past experience, self-esteem, and her relationship with the manager.
Positive Feedback comes in many forms ...
Let employees know what specifically you appreciate about them, their work, their involvement, and their initiative. Use the list below to brainstorm your own unique reinforcers.
25 Kinds of Reinforcement
- Allow your employees to develop their own work styles as long as the work is done satisfactorily.
- Let each person know when his work or some part of it has improved.
- Give employees books related to their interests and career goals.
- Show an interest in their personal lives - ask about their kids, spouses, vacations.
- In a family crisis, give time off with pay.
- Have ice cream socials to celebrate team milestones.
- Take the team to lunch to introduce a new member of the team.
- Create a pleasant workplace-provide good chairs, adequate lighting, temperature controls, clean restrooms with walls freshly painted.
- Provide employees with laptop computers so they can work anywhere and keep in touch.
- Provide good food and coffee during long meetings or conferences.
- Have dress down days at the end of difficult projects.
- Send flowers to employees' homes on special occasions.
- Honor your employees at meetings by talking about their contributions.
- Fit the job to the personalities and skills of employees rather than the other way around.
- Take the employees and their spouses to a restaurant to celebrate milestones.
- If employees must do extensive business travel, give them extra time off to recover from jet lag and stress.
- Have a holiday party, or, if funds are tight, give everyone a turkey.
- Have farewell and retirement parties, and talk about the contributions the employee made to the company.
- Let employees leave early or take long lunches if business is slow or after a grueling project is finished.
- Remind yourself that people need balance in their lives and don't expect them to work around the clock week after week.
- Have brown bag lunches with speakers for employees on their areas of interest.
- When a project has a tight deadline, pitch in yourself or be available for questions and support.
- Have periodic sessions to solicit feedback and learn how employees feel so you can improve attitude, climate, and morale.
- Give employees bonuses when they meet or exceed their yearly goals.
- On business trips, make sure employees have separate and equal rooms and fly at the same level as you. Take a half day off and visit the local museum together.