Whenever I am working with clients either individually or in workshops, one of the areas that seems to come up time and time again is how to motivate people.
Now we all know that people are motivated in different ways. For a small proportion it might simply be about the financial reward. For others the opportunity to be challenged or gain new experience or skills will matter.
One of the areas that I know that can make a difference to motivation and results is feedback. In truth we all to a greater or lesser extent thrive on feedback.
The organisations we run or work in are always on the lookout for feedback.
Any time I deliver something for a client, I am keen to get the feedback in as much depth as I possibly can. Why? Quite simply I want to see what worked and what needs improving for the future. I don’t see negative feedback as a threat but an opportunity to do even better.
In terms of individual leaders and managers, I know that some struggle to give effective feedback. Yet in truth like most things the more you do it the easier it becomes.
So what are my 10 best tips when it comes to giving feedback?
Tip 1: Catch people doing things right
It is so easy to fall into the trap of only giving feedback when things have gone wrong. In reality people get more right than they do wrong in the workplace. Make a point of noticing when people do things right like hitting sales targets, dealing with an angry customer or hitting deadlines.
Tip 2: Look for the signals that the employee wants feedback
People are sometimes a little hesitant to ask directly for feedback. They may ask in a much more subtle way by asking:
How they are doing in the job
Whether they are living up to expectations
Be alert to these signals.
Tip 3: Feedback as early as possible
You don’t have to wait for an appraisal or meeting to feedback. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, give it at the earliest opportunity.
Tip 4: Focus on behaviours
It is important to focus on the behaviours that are helping or getting in the way of achievement when giving feedback. For example:
I notice you were behaving aggressively in your dealing with x
I saw you take decisive action when it was clear we might slip on the timetable
In the first scenario you are referring to aggression as the behaviour in your feedback. In the second scenario the behaviour you are drawing attention to is decisiveness.
Tip 5: Avoid feedback that cannot be acted upon
The purpose of giving the feedback is to facilitate action. Make sure it can be acted upon. For example, there is no point is telling someone who has is lacking confidence to be more confident. You need to give them specific ideas on what they might do to address the lack of confidence.
Tip 6: Check the feedback is understood
The quickest and often most effective way of doing this is to ask the other person to tell you to play back to you what they understand they heard. This lets you deal with ambiguity there and then.
Tip 7: Give the opportunity to the other party to discuss how the feedback might be improved
If you ask people how you could improve the way you give feedback and allow them to respond authentically, truthfully and openly, you will learn and improve.
Tip 8: Use non threatening language
When giving negative feedback, choose your words carefully. While you have to make clear the consequences if improvement is not achieved if you have someone who is not performing to the required standard, you don’t need to do it in a threatening way.
Tip 9: Be a role model
One of the most effective ways of demonstrating that you are open to feedback is to actively seek it. Many organisations have formal 360 degree feedback processes. One organisation I worked for did not have a formal 360 degree process so I simply sent out an e-mail to a mixture of subordinates, peers and superiors asking them:
What I did well
What I did not do so well
Where I needed to develop
If you are worried that people will be reluctant to respond, ask them to send their responses to your boss and ask your boss to feedback key themes anonymously.
Tip 10: Set up a date for follow up
The final thing to do after giving feedback is to set up a follow up appointment. This lets the other party know that you are committed to supporting them and to making change or getting better in a particular area.
The Bottom Line: The truth is giving feedback will always be a challenge. At the same time it really can be the catalyst for achieving great results if you are ready to make it a core element in your leadership and management toolbox.