Giving or receiving constructive feedback can be a touchy endeavor. When doling it out, we worry about how the message is going to be received, will the recipient truly hear what we're saying, and will his or her feelings be hurt by what's being said. When the criticism is directed at us we try to not get defensive or take it personally, but to examine the information so that we have an accurate grasp of it and can improve our mode of operation moving forward. None of this is particularly easy, but it's extremely important for any company looking to grow one day over the next. Every situation and relationship is different, but there are underlying principles everyone can integrate to get the most out of corrective feedback:
- When planning your session, first clearly define the objectives you want to get accomplished. These will help guide the meeting and keep tangents from knocking you permanently off track. Feedback should not be given for the sake of feedback -- there needs to be well-defined reasons of how the new behavior will help improve the individual and company's performance.
- Set proper expectations before the meeting. People despise being blindsided and it can cause defensiveness. Nothing discussed should come out of the blue or be a total surprise to the employee.
- In the same vain, evaluation doesn't need to be a once-a-year consultation. If there's a behavior worth it to your organization to change, it should be addressed as soon as time permits. Also, the more often you're able to meet in this manner, the less apprehension there will be as the session will feel decreasingly like a big deal.
- Be utterly sincere in your comments. If the recipient sniffs even a hint of disingenuousness, the message will be lost and the contention it creates could cause conduct to weaken.
- Be as specific as possible. Pinpoint exactly how the behavior is impacting the company so that the employee can make the necessary connections and assign value to the advice.
- Treat the discussion as a learning experience for the organization. Keep the fingers from pointing and be invigorated by the light being shed on company processes that will soon be improved.
- Have a plan to track and follow the new behavior's progress. This is vital in case you have made any miscalculations in its impact and need to tweak your direction. It will also keep the employee accountable and increase his or her buy-in as performance keeps improving.
- Make sure to listen. The recipient may have better ideas for a solution than you have as he or she is the one in the trenches completing the task in question on a daily basis. Both parties should ask lots of questions to make sure they are tuning into the same frequency on everything being discussed.
- Not all feedback should be corrective. Feedback that includes praise is just as important to encouraging future exceptional performance.
In the end, people want to know how they're doing as long as it's delivered constructively. Giving them this information in a thoughtful way will not only benefit the employee but create a culture of continual improvement for your organization.