As a leader, one of your most important responsibilities is to develop others, and feedback is one of the most effective ways to provide that development. With studies showing thata lack of regular and helpful feedback is one of the principal reasons that people leave their jobs, can you afford to neglect feedback as part of your employees development plan?
Leaders often argue that it’s simply too hard to find the time to give feedback, even though in today’s turbulent times it has never been more critical. In addition, leaders cite their reluctance to give negative feedback, with 63 percent of HR leaders stating that a manager’s inability or unwillingness to have difficult feedback discussions is their biggest challenge. However, researchalso shows that 72 percent of employees believe their performance would improve if their managers provided corrective feedback.
Although the responsibility does not just sit with the team leader, one studyin particular highlights the benefits of feedback by demonstrating a strong correlation between regularly asking for feedback and leadership effectiveness. Furthermore, it is not just constructive feedback that is important – positive feedback can increase engagement, motivation and innovation. Yet, even though the benefits are clear, more than 55 percent of employeesbelieve their most recent performance review was unfair or inaccurate.
So, how can you make sure your next feedback conversation is perceived as fair and accurate? There are three key questions you need to ask yourself first.
- How objective are you?
Being specific in describing what you want the person to do more of, or less of, is critical to behaviour change.
This approach increases the likelihood of alignment between the feedback you described and feedback heard by the recipient are consistent. It also ensures that you can adequately measure performance improvement and consider a realistic timeframe for change. Your objectivity comes by identifying the facts versus the assumptions you are making about the person’s behaviour; it is also enhanced by commenting on patterns of behaviour versus responding to a one-off event.
Overall, my sense is that the level of objectivity you can bring to feedback correlates to the time you spend preparing, rather than thinking you can respond effectively “in the moment”. You need to prioritise time in your schedule to secure the performance improvements that are more likely to come with providing objective feedback.
- How empathic are you?
Empathy is the ability to sense others’ feelings and perspectives, taking an active interest in their concerns and picking up cues about what others feel and think.
When giving feedback, it’s often easy to assume that everyone experiences the world as you do – in other words, everyone responds to feedback in the same way you would. For example, people In the top 10 percentin confidence levels are six rimes more open to receiving negative feedback.
So, giving constructive feedback to people with less confidence involves a more empathetic approach, including thinking about how you might place more emphasis on their achievements and strengths as well as the time you spend with them giving the feedback.
Interestingly, bringing a more empathetic approach also comes with generational differences. To be effective, negative feedback to Millennialsneeds to be more consistent and perceived as benefitting them now or in the future. Managers must be assertive enough to make sure the employee understands their concerns, but sensitive to the fact that many Millennials have difficulty accepting such feedback.
- How respectful are you?
An essential aspect of providing feedback is the respect you demonstrate throughout the process. Researchsuggests that when it comes to fostering commitment and engagement from employees, no behaviour is more powerful than when leaders show respect.
Being treated with respect is more important to employees than any other form of recognition. When providing feedback, this means remaining open to exploring the other person’s perspective and that responsibility doesn’t end with giving the feedback.
Providing effective feedback is a process of dialogue and meaning-making with the employee to understand their perspective and how they have interpreted what you have just described. It is also a process that involves being open to adjusting what action is required based on their response to the feedback.
Researchsuggests that feedback which includes the opportunity for a person to reflect on what they have heard, to just providing feedback, is a more effective approach to enhance performance.
The action plans and development goals that come from a feedback conversation should therefore be done in a collaborative process, where the employee has autonomy in how they respond to the feedback. It’s essential that they believe there is fairness in the feedback provided relative to the performance standards expected of everyone on the team. From a neuroscienceperspective by addressing these dynamics, the person is less likely to perceive the feedback conversation as a threat and won’t respond defensively or aggressively.
In summary, providing feedback requires the emotional intelligence to observe our behaviours while giving feedback and, most importantly, to respect the feelings of the employee to effectively manage the relationships. This capacity for emotional intelligence is proven to elevate performance in leaders and, not surprisingly therefore, it likely enhances a leader’s ability to deliver feedback.
So, the question to ask yourself is how can I bring greater objectivity, empathy and respect to my next feedback conversation?