Many team leaders do not know how to give productive feedback to team members at work. Others find the process of having difficult conversations with team members awkward. So, they chose to avoid giving feedback to their teams.
Unfortunately, when, and how to give feedback to team members is your responsibility as a team leader. Whether it’s positive or negative, your team members need constructive and timely feedback so that they can change behaviour, learn, improve, and succeed.
Why Sharing Productive Feedback is Important?
Interestingly, many leaders think team members take feedback severely, which is not always the case. But many team members believe that their team leaders give feedback very poorly.
I see this as a lack of trust. If there is no trust between a team leader and team members, no one will genuinely take feedback from someone they do not trust.
But, it does not have to be this or that. Feedback is vital to the leader and team members if you do it the right way. It just requires everyone to go past the arguments about who is right and who is wrong.
Move into a meaningful two-way conversation about why the leader sees team members differently from how they see themselves. And in the end, make something useful out of that conversation.
The following guidelines show how to give constructive feedback;
1. Check Your Motive for Giving Feedback
First, check your motive for giving feedback to team members before you start the dialogue. Your feedback must be fair, regardless of your impulse or purpose. And ensure that you intend to help rather than reprimand or hurt your team members.
There are different methods of giving and receiving productive feedback in the workplace. Whether it is positive or negative feedback, make sure you deliver it close to the incident or event, when details are still evident in your team members minds.
Do not go away and gossip with colleagues or others, about something your team member has done before even talking to the person.
Some leaders have the habit of going away and complain about their team members. It is crucial you talk to the person first, and directly.
If it is not possible to give productive feedback straight after the event, deliver it as soon as you can, but closer to the event. And try to do it face to face. If you do not have time to meet with the person, you can at least give your feedback over the phone.
But do not do it by email because an email can cause a lot of misunderstandings and recriminations.
3. Check Whether Team Member is Ready
If you mention feedback to people, a large proportion of them invariably look confident, but inside, they are concerned and apprehensive. So, first, make the right environment for a good dialogue.
Next, find out if it is the right time for the team member to receive your feedback. Always call your team members by their first names before you proceed. It catches their attention and gets them ready to listen and respond to you.
Then ask this simple question, ” are you open to some helpful feedback?” and wait patiently for an answer. So far, I have not met anyone who has said no to this question.
You are not begging for permission. You are just setting and ensuring that the environment is right for a good dialogue.
4. Starting a Constructive Dialogue
Constructive feedback is the one that its outcomes are useful to both the giver and recipient. It can be either positive or negative feedback. It does not matter which one if it is delivered the right way.
If your team member is going to receive, for example, negative feedback, do not just jump straight in and unleash your criticism. It will wreak the dialogue or lead to negative feedback.
Start a constructive conversation by saying something like, “how are you doing today?” And maybe follow up with, “what is working well for you?” To do that minimizes the risk of generating a threat response and leaves a clear path for a more constructive dialogue. Once you finish that, get straight to the point.
Do not say “if you disagree with something I say, ask a question.” That can fire up your team members to become paranoid and prepare for a hostile encounter.
Also, the person can suddenly develop a “what’s the point” attitude – you’ve already made up your mind.
Just have a piece of paper and pen, and be ready to receive some questions. It is better that way than firing off a question and counter questioning battle.
5. How to Give Negative Productive Feedback?
How you deliver your constructive negative feedback to a team member is as important as positive feedback. Your tone and body language are equally important as the words used to deliver the message. The sting in the words you use can block the information, and your team members will not accept nor get it.
Avoid the sandwich method of feedback. Do not try to fluff your negative feedback with artificial praise or blend the good and bad as a way of not upsetting your team members. That is not going to help you or the team member.
Giving constructive negative feedback is a challenge for many people. Because negative, is a judgment, and no one wants that. Do not be judgemental. Negative feedback is often a perception, not facts. So you must provide it to the recipient without any malice.
All you need when giving negative feedback is to lead in with something like, “I am not sure if you are aware or not, but I want to talk to you about something that is impacting on this or that” and then let the person know what the issue is.
Just be very careful with the language or the type of words you use. Speak calmly and firmly. And avoid accusing or using negative statements to describe an incident or something.
If you say something your team member does not like and interrupt, say “please let me finish” while you are polite and calm. Avoid anything that can cause an argument. Feedback does not have to result in hostility. And remember always to control your emotions and reactions.
People react differently to negative feedback. But I have observed that, if you say something people disagree with during a feedback conversation, most of them say “thank-you.” And then, they either ask for clarifying questions or just shut up.
6. Focus on What Needs Improving
If you spend too much energy dwelling on things that have already failed, you are just wasting time on a post-mortem. No matter how much you diagnose the failures, your team members will not change what has happened in the past.
Spend your time finding how you can work with the person to improve outcomes in the future.
Feedback is not about a team leader telling team members to go and change.
You have to show that you are willing to support or deal with the issue as it may require.
7. Be Descriptive and Offer Specifics
Describe, but do not evaluate the issue, and make the person aware of what you observed. Say like, ” I saw you doing this, at this time, and it made me uncomfortable” this is an example of a descriptive statement.
But to say “your recent behaviour has impacted on our project, without saying precisely what the person did – you’re speculating and maybe vindictive.
Remember always to focus on the issue, not the person.
8. Giving Positive Productive Feedback
The process of giving positive feedback should not be different from the negative one – only that the positive one, often ends with the recipient having a pleasant feeling.
But like the negative one, if you are delivering positive feedback, ensure that you mean what you say. Be descriptive and use specific examples to sound more credible, rather than making general statements. Make eye contact first and then complement the person.
9. Give your Feedback in a Spirit of Tentativeness
Your feedback is a perception, not the truth. Even if you have some evidence, it is still not true or false. It is just an opinion you have created from the available evidence.
The challenge is many team leaders and managers do not understand this. They think once the evidence backs their feedback, it is the truth. No, it is not! It is an assessment you have created from the evidence which can still be challenged, and overturned.
When you finish delivering your feedback, do not forget to thank the team member for listening to you and reiterate your willingness to provide all the support if needed.
How do you give constructive feedback? If you have a thought on this article, please leave it in the comments box below.