6 Tips for Giving Feedback That’s Actually Helpful

Provide feedback

Providing feedback is an essential part of any workplace environment. Employees crave feedback; it helps them feel engaged and motivated and allows them to improve their performance.

In fact, multiple studies point to the lack of feedback as one of the main causes of low engagement among employees. So anyone in a leadership position must learn how to give feedback that is constructive rather than critical and develop a safe space for staff to share their own feedback.

Feedback must be proactive, timely and specific in order to be helpful. However, many individuals struggle with providing feedback that is actually helpful. Here are six helpful tips for providing effective employee feedback to encourage engagement and motivation:

1. Frame your thoughts as constructive feedback, not criticism.
2. Be specific and give examples.
3. Critique the behavior, not the person.
4. Offer solutions and suggestions for improvement.
5. Be timely with your feedback.
6. Create a safe space to encourage positive feedback that flows both ways.

1. Frame your thoughts as constructive feedback, not criticism

The first step to providing feedback that is actually helpful is to frame it as constructive, not critical. This means focusing on a behavior or action that you want to see change, rather than attacking the person or attacking something outside of their control.

Positive feedback examples would be, “I noticed that you didn’t take notes during the meeting. I think it would be helpful if you did so next time” which is more constructive than the negative feedback example, “You didn’t take notes during the meeting, and it was really unprofessional.”

Focusing on positive behavior also allows the person to save face and feel like they are still competent overall. This is important because feeling incompetent is one of the main reasons people avoid taking risks or trying new things.

2. Be specific and give examples

Next, you want your feedback to be specific and relevant in order to have a positive impact on your employee’s performance. This means that you should avoid general comments such as “good job” or “you’re doing great.”

Instead, focus on a specific behavior or action that you liked. A good positive feedback example is, “I noticed that you were really organized and succinct during the presentation. The summary you provided at the end helped us all to know what we need to do moving forward.”

This level of specificity helps the employee understand the positive results of their behavior and why it was helpful. It also allows them to replicate the behavior in the future.

3. Critique the behavior, not the person

When critiquing someone’s behavior, it is essential to remember that you are critiquing the behavior, not the person. This can be a difficult distinction to make, but it is important to remember that people can change their behavior, but they cannot change who they are.

It is also important to avoid using “you” statements when critiquing someone’s behavior. For example, “When you arrived late for the meeting, it made the team feel disorganized.”

Instead, focus on how the behavior affected others. For example, “Your punctuality is important to the team because it helps us feel organized.” Focusing on how the behavior affects others will help the person see why changing their behavior is important.

You also want to be aware of when issues are repetitive, which should be concerning, versus when they’re an isolated event. If this particular employee is never late, there must have been a good reason. However, if the issue is consistent, it will need to be addressed differently.

4. Offer solutions and suggestions for improvement

Constructive feedback should be accompanied by a solution or suggestion for improvement. This shows that you are invested in helping the person improve their behavior.

A good example would be, “Your punctuality is important to the team because we all keep very tight schedules. If an emergency arises and you’re going to be late for a meeting in the future, please let the team know right away so we can determine how to proceed.”

This type of feedback is helpful because it gives the person a specific way to improve their behavior.

5. Be timely with your feedback

When you are addressing behavior, it’s important to give feedback and deal with any issues in a timely manner. Rather than waiting for an annual review to let an employee know what a great job they did on a big presentation, speak with them directly the next day and let them know.

Similarly, if problematic behavior is occurring, don’t wait until the review cycle to let the employee know that you’re putting them on an improvement plan. Address the issue as soon as you notice it so they have time to improve.

Giving delayed feedback can make it seem like you are not paying attention or that you don’t care about the person’s behavior. It also makes it difficult to address specific situations and correct courses. For example, if someone arrives late to meetings throughout the year, there’s little point in bringing this up at the end. Instead, let them know when it happens that it’s not appropriate. If you wait too long, they may not even remember that they arrived late.

6. Create a safe space to encourage positive feedback both ways

In order for feedback to be effective, it has to flow both ways. When you create a safe space for people to share their own feedback with you, you’re setting an example that feedback is both welcomed and encouraged in the work environment.

Encouraging people to give you regular feedback shows that you are open to hearing about your own behavior. It also shows that you value their opinions and that you are willing to change if necessary.

Why Feedback is Important

As humans, we crave feedback. It reinforces positive behaviors and gives us a roadmap for changing negative behaviors. Giving feedback in a timely manner lets others know that you value them and their contributions. It shows that you are committed to their development.
By following these tips, you can give feedback that is actually helpful and encourage employee engagement. Positive employee feedback is an important part of any workplace and should be given in a way that is constructive, specific, and offers solutions for improvement.

If you find that giving positive and constructive feedback is an area where you need improvement, reach out and inquire about our individual coaching program for leaders.

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