How to give great feedback
Given the rapid pace of change at work, that punchy pace in which roles are evolving, it’s never been more crucial to be able to give honest, helpful and motivating feedback as a leader.
Yet shockingly, my experience as a Change Mentor shows me that this business-critical leadership skill is left to chance and personal interpretation of what’s expected with little or no support nor training over 80% of the time.
Does this approach work? Only for the 20% who are naturally good at giving feedback and more importantly also naturally enjoy and value delivering it! For the remaining 80+% the knock-on effect of not being naturally skilled in this department can be high stress, high staff turnover, greater confusion and conflict with less growth, profit and pleasure.
“But there’s no budget to develop this skill Sally” I hear you say.
Well, I have a saying:
“Leaders of creative businesses are very comfortable at losing money in an established way. It’s thrown onto the gambling wheel of bad recruitment. Time and time again”.
Take just a fraction of this budget and invest it into to equipping your key leaders, and if you are a Founder / Owner reading this then also yourself, on how to give effective feedback. Your bad spend on recruitment will radically reduce, your talent retention rates will increase, and profit and culture will accelerate.
To address such a fundamental need in our industry, here are some of my top tips to equip you to give better feedback:
o Most creative business leaders approach giving feedback in the same manner as giving an interview – on the hoof squeezed in between other “more business-critical needs”. This wastes so much opportunity
o Be clear and up-to-date on the role the person is performing. And I mean really clear. Can you clearly articulate what the difference is between poor, fair, good and great in terms of performance and results for the role the person you are giving feedback to is delivering in real-time? If you can’t how can it be reasonable to expect those in the role to naturally understand this? Assumption is the biggest killer of talent and company growth.
o Having a strong role foundation in place provides clear, objective benchmarks to anchor the feedback. And if there has been a change in behaviour or results, it will provide clarity and context. You can then measure progress effectively and adjust your course in an informed way when you are next feeding back on the feedback.
o Clear your mind of all the other demands flying around so that you are FULLY present and FOCUSED before the meeting so you can properly connect in the meeting when giving the feedback. This will also help you be more attuned to how the person is receiving the feedback and the best ways to follow up and support
o Think about your body language when giving feedback. Is it open or closed? Are you even aware of it? Your body is a tool in giving great communication but most of us are on automatic pilot so ignore this free asset. We are tribal beings after all and will take as much information, if not more, from physical communication as verbal. Your mouth maybe saying one message, but your eyes and your body language will be singing the real message. Loudly!
o I have a tool called “The 3 Bullets”. I’ve used it for over 20 years to guide my clients to have more effective communication, connection and results. Set three clear goals that you want the person to walk away thinking and feeling post the feedback. Stick this somewhere where you can visually see it at least 2 days before the meeting and keep looking at it as often as you can. This informs your subconscious mind and enables your feedback to be aligned, clearer and more effective in achieving the result you wish to achieve from the feedback.
o A classic mistake with feedback is to not follow up and ensure each party has come away with the same understanding of what the feedback was, why it has been given and what the expectations are expected as a result
o You wouldn’t expect your child to learn new skills or change behaviours without teaching them and showing them how. So why do we expect people to be able to upskill or overcome problems simply because we have fed-back with them on what they have to change? Confirm what help the person needs to take the feedback. Also confirm how they can access this. There may be champions in the business that can help or there may be a valid case for external training/ mentoring
o Follow up, follow up and follow up. When I was a Headhunter, far too often the reason great talent left a business before they really needed to was because promises for development were given in reviews and feedback sessions but these promises were not kept. This is the quickest way to break emotional connection and then your talent is on the open market and you’ll fail to counter offer no matter how much cash goes on the table!
You can email Sally for a more detailed guide on giving great feedback.