Giving Constructive Feedback
How to Be Kind AND Get What You Want
Constructive Feedback: Feedback around an individual’s performance that helps achieve a positive outcome by building the skills and behaviors that person needs to be successful.
If you know me, you know I think brutal honesty is bullshit, and I believe in constructive feedback. In the past, I’ve talked a lot about why giving constructive feedback is important and that it’s crucial to not be negative or overly critical of your employees. Today we’re going to talk about the how.
Here are 10 tips on giving constructive feedback:
1. Have a Purpose
Have a purpose beyond telling someone they did something wrong. In other words, make sure it’s more than a feeling you have. If you’re planning on starting the conversation with “I feel like…”, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Instead, make sure your feedback contains something objective, measurable, and (most importantly) actionable.
2. Make Sure it Contains Something of Value
Often this is the difference between feedback and criticism. If you’re not adding something of value to the conversation, aren’t you just telling someone what they did wrong? Create an opportunity for learning, growth, and/or action. This is why it’s called constructive criticism – you should be able to build something from it.
3. Do It Privately
Find a private place to have your conversation. Don’t give an individual in-depth feedback in front of others. Check with the employee to see if it’s a good time before you talk, especially if it’s something serious. However, if someone puts you off too much, be courteous, but get it scheduled. Don’t let them brush you off.
4. Do It In-Person
It’s always preferable to give feedback in-person. If for some reason you aren’t able to do that (i.e. COVID precautions), speak face-to-face on a Zoom call. It’s important to see that person’s face and their true reactions. If it’s not possible, a phone call is next best. Email should be last in line, especially for something important.
5. Use Your Words
If you do have to send feedback via email or some other form of text communication, use your words. Do not use emoticons! It’s easy enough for things to be lost in translation these days, so don’t add fuel to the fire by sending someone a smiley face and a rocketship.
6. Give Feedback Within a Timely Manner
Have the conversation while it’s fresh on everyone’s minds. It will always be harder to bring it up later, so try to have the talk within a couple of days of an incident.
7. Be Impartial
Do your best to treat everyone the same way. Don’t give one person a piece of feedback unless you would give it to your other employees in the same situation.
8. Be Sincere
Mean what you say—don’t say something just because it’s your duty. You don’t have to follow the ever-popular “shit sandwich” model if there’s no poop between the bread.
9. Give Praise When Deserved
Constructive feedback doesn’t have to be negative feedback, and you don’t always need to tell someone to improve something. If they’ve done well, just say so.
10. Be Respectful & Listen
Just because you’re helping someone doesn’t mean you need to be an asshole, so mind your tone. You’re a leader, not a boss. Also, chances are the person receiving the feedback will have something to say about it, so listen to how they feel about it and take it on board.
In a nutshell, be kind and let your employee know what’s working. Then let them know what isn’t working and what could be improved. Tell them what the outcome of improving and/or changing their behavior would be, and do your best to follow the 10 tips above.