Feedback is a great way to help your employees develop, and provide them on-going guidance. But delivering feedback can be tricky, and isn’t very comfortable for many women leaders. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, say the wrong thing, or just have to deal with uncomfortable discussions. The process can be as stressful for the person giving the feedback as the one on the receiving end.
Giving effective feedback is a skill that takes time to develop. Like any skill, the more you do it, the more you’ll improve and build your confidence. Feedback doesn’t have to be a formal event and is something you can practice often. Delivering frequent, on-the-spot feedback is appropriate when you see an issue that needs to be corrected or to tell someone they’re doing a good job.
Jill Schiefelbein of The Dynamic Communicator provides leaders with five tried-and-true rules you can follow to confidently deliver effective feedback.
- Own Your Message
Don’t start your feedback message with the word “you.” This initial “you” will put the receiver on the defensive, even when you’re providing positive feedback. By starting statements with “I” you’re taking ownership of the message.
Tip: Instead of saying “You have been coming in late…,” try “I have noticed that you have been coming in late…”
- Avoid Apologizing
You don’t need to apologize for giving feedback. It’s your role as a leader to help your employee improve and succeed. Apologizing will diminish the corrective effect you’re trying to provide.
Tip: Steer clear of using disclaimers such as “maybe is just me, but I think that…” These take away from the impact of your message.
- Be Specific and Address the Behavior
By focusing on behaviors, not attitudes, you can keep people from becoming defensive. Behaviors are something that can be changed or modified, personal traits typically aren’t. When delivering feedback, be sure you point out the specific results of the behavior, and make clear the impact their actions have.
Tip: Statements like “Since I didn’t receive a return call from you, I wasn’t able to…” are very effective.
- Match Your Actions to Your Words
Verbal messages must be matched by the appropriate nonverbal messages. For example, if you smile while delivering a serious message, you’ll diminish the importance of your feedback. Also, if you come across as angry when addressing a behavior change, it puts the recipient on the defensive.
Tip: Be aware of your body language; by turning your body toward the other person you show you’re engaged and open to what they have to say.
- Evaluate Only When Asked
This last rule is meant primarily for giving feedback to your peers or higher-ups. Unsolicited feedback from a peer or subordinate can come across as negative criticism. If you have input to offer, ask if your feedback is wanted.
Tip: You can use “if you would like some feedback, please let me know.”
Feedback is part of a conversation, not a one-way dialog. These conversations will strengthen your relationships with team members, and help them develop into stand-out employees.