How to give feedback

How to give feedback in the workplace?

When I say the word ‘feedback’, what comes to mind?  Most people automatically think negatively.

Feedback is both positive and constructive and is essential to changing a workplace culture.

However, there are some rules around feedback – what it is, and how it should be given.

In her book “Successful Feedback”, author Sally Foley-Lewis gives an effective model to use when giving feedback. She walks you through ensuring you have specific examples,  showing the effect of the action (on themselves, and others), coaching them through the change and gaining commitment from the receiver.

I personally have used this model and it gave me confidence to know the conversation was going to turn out well.  And it did.

Learning to look for the “Whale Done!’ vs the ‘Gotchas’ is what Ken Blanchard describes in his book – “Whale Done”.  He describes how most managers are only ever talking to their team when they do something wrong.  It’s a message that is unfortunately mirrored in workplaces everywhere and is a crucial tipping point in rebuilding a culture.

We need to start catching people doing the right things – and give them feedback – using the above model from Sally,  rather than only ever seeing them do the wrong things.  So how do we do this?

  • Be observant to when your team do the right things. No matter how small – we need to start to praising progress. So if someone didn’t hit their targets this month, and increased from last month – this is your feedback.

Share with them the specifics, the effect and encourage to keep up the good work.  Here is an example:  “Tracy, I’ve just pulled the sales reports and it’s showing me you hit 11 sales this month! This is going in the right direction and shows all the work you are doing is getting results. Keep up the great work!”

Now Tracy may have a target of 20 sales per month, and last month she may have only received 7. So whilst she hasn’t hit the target yet, she is improving.  I can assure you Tracy will start to feel a glow inside and try harder to get more than 11 next month.

The opposite of this is something we’ve all done (me included). It goes like this: ” Tracy, I’ve just pulled the sales reports and it’s showing me you hit 11 sales this month. As you know, your target is 20 for the month. We’re going to need to talk about you can improve this effort – and do it quickly. ” 

Which one do you think Tracy will respond to?

  • What you focus on is key.  So if you give attention only when someone does something wrong, how do you think they will feel if that’s all they ever hear from you? I’ve been in the situation a few times and I can tell you from first hand experience, it’s terrible!

So how do we deal with an undesirable behaviour? We redirect it.  You describe the error clearly, without adding any blame to it or asking why they did this.  You show the negative impact this has. Step up and take some of the blame for not showing them how to do it right to start with (if it fits the situation),  Ensure you are showing them how to do it right and tell them you believe in them and let them go do their job.

Let’s go back to Tracy and give an example: ” Tracy, I noticed you had been out to see XYZ company? (Tracy agrees) Did you know that  Amanda is looking after them at the moment? (Tracy says no, she didn’t know). Ok, this can cause us to look a bit silly when we have more than one person calling on them –  I’m sorry for not showing you how to check that. Let me show you can find if the account is being managed by someone else…. You’re doing great work Tracy and I love your enthusiasm to getting new clients on board – great job!”

Or you can do a negative response to this, which I’m sure you already know what that would look like.

Learning how to spot the positives and praise them is the key to changing your culture. If you as a manager have only ever picked up on the negative, then making this slight change to your daily habits will ensure you become a great leader in no time!

If you are looking for more coaching around this topic, and would like a training session around giving feedback, please get in touch.

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