By: Ron Guest, Senior Partner, TwoGreySuits
In my experience of coaching managers and counseling employees at all levels, I have found one thing that truly separates outstanding managers and average managers. Great managers have one skill which is very well honed and utilized.
Over my career I have had over a dozen managers, and there were perhaps only two that really knew how to manage people, well above all the rest combined. Looking back, it was these two that I knew best and who knew me best. This was for one reason. They knew how to give feedback even if it wasn’t always positive.
Surprisingly, studies have suggested employees actually want to hear constructive feedback more than positive feedback. Unfortunately, most people don’t like delivering this highly sought after information—including managers.
Think about it – people genuinely want to be able to do a good job and to know where they stand. To do a good job, you need feedback on how you are doing, and what to do differently, plain and simple. Feedback provides the opportunity for behavior change and a different way of doing things. Sure, we all like positive feedback, and it is also a very powerful and under estimated tool managers can use but constructive feedback given properly will shape employee behavior and develop their skills set.
Now, how you give feedback is as important as the feedback itself.
Most Managers, in my view, do not like giving corrective feedback to their direct reports and extensive research also tells us they’re not good at it.
You can make your job and your life a lot easier if you can master the skill of providing constructive feedback in a way that will leave people feeling inspired, motivated, supported and valued.
The real good news is that we can all get better at delivering constructive feedback. Below are four tips to help all managers become more candid and effective with feedback.
1. Be Concise. Avoid using vague words and phrases.
Vague or non-factual feedback can hold your employees back – especially women. A recent Harvard Business review article concludes that vague feedback is correlated with lower performance ratings for females. If you’re going to take the time to give feedback, make sure it’s clear and direct. Have your facts correct, seriously important.
2. Link feedback to business goals and outcomes whenever possible.
Avoid using vague comments like, “You have great attention to detail.” Instead, try, “Because of your attention to detail, we were able to identify this customer segment buying trend and adjust our inventories accordingly which allowed for uninterrupted product supply to key customers and over achieving our quarterly sales targets.” It is always better to use facts and figures rather than opinions and emotions to get your point across.
3. Know the right time to give feedback.
If, as a manager, you are in an angry or emotional state, corrective or constructive feedback will not come across as it should. If the person receiving the feedback is not in a state to receive feedback, it will be lost too. If the person is coming back from bereavement leave and you want to provide constructive feedback, ok, but understand the different state of mind a person might be in, same thing if a person is not a ‘morning’ person, you will be getting perhaps only a portion of their attention.
4. Be transparent in your “want” to develop your employee’s skill sets.
Know that difficult or sensitive feedback conversations are based on a sincere desire of helping your employees develop instead of showing them how they were wrong. Feedback, given correctly should make the person feel valued, supported, inspired and encouraged.
Giving feedback is a must – especially when it’s constructive, but also when positive too. Employees want and need it to develop. If you truly want to be an outstanding manager, providing feedback is a skill you have to master – there is no substitute here! Providing proper feedback can make the difference between an employee who does just enough to get by, and an employee who performs at the very highest levels of Employee Engagement.