Insights on Navigating Feedback Sessions – Part 2
The word “feedback” means different things to different people. Many immediately relate it to criticism, others think of praise, and there are those who understand feedback as a mix of both. One of the reasons for the negative association is that our brains are wired to critique others. Feedback is particularly challenging in the corporate world. Managers may easily fall into the trap of considering the feedback session primarily as an opportunity to focus on areas for improvement and employees’ weaknesses. However, according to a Gallup study, only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work. Only 21% agree that the way their performance is managed actually motivates them to deliver outstanding work.
Scientific findings indicate that humans grow more in areas where they already have greater abilities. Focusing on what employees do well and validating their positive contributions will most probably enhance their performance. However, critical feedback is also necessary. So, finding the balance between praise and criticism is vital for successful feedback management. In the final installment of this two-part series, I will share important insights gained from numerous feedback sessions with members of my teams, both in formal and informal circumstances.
Tips for delivering meaningful feedback:
Listen to your employees
Leaders need to learn about their employee’s experience and their perspectives about their work. Learning about how employees see their strengths is often revealing, and more often than not, they will raise the leader’s concerns making it easier to discuss those areas. We are living in particularly challenging times, with COVID-19 and many people working remotely. More than ever, listening to your employees is a fundamental leadership skill. So, ask questions, be present and interested, and direct questions that focus on strengths and areas for improvement.
Validate your employees on an everyday basis
Feedback needs to be constant practice in the workplace. Leaders should not wait for the annual performance review to let their employees know how they are performing. Employees need to be validated, and this should become an everyday practice. Managers often take things for granted and do not vocally acknowledge the positive contributions employees make in their daily work. Begin by recognizing and openly talking about attitudes and positive results achieved and turn that into a habit. Once your employees realize you value their work, a stronger feeling of trust will emerge, triggering a more open attitude to criticism. In formal feedback sessions, “offer appreciation before you offer criticism,” as people are more receptive to constructive criticism when what they did well is discussed first.3
Focus on being specific and clear
Managers should keep a record of the positive and negative events related to their employees. During feedback sessions, both criticism and validation need to be exemplified regarding such events. General statements not based on concrete examples are usually ineffective, questionable, and can be easily forgotten. Managers should clearly and transparently describe the events as they were perceived and invite employees to express their views. It is also important to give examples of ways in which employees could handle similar situations in the future.
Be selective in the feedback you want to share
In formal annual feedback sessions, managers should focus on the most relevant areas for improvement. Feedback needs to be relevant, and emphasis should be given to the impactful areas. Dealing with too much in one single event may cause employees to lose focus and not understand the most relevant aspects that need to be addressed. There is only so much feedback an individual can hear at a time.
Feedback can be a powerful tool in organizations. Managers need to understand its importance, prepare for it, including rehearsals in case of anticipated difficulties, and develop an open and encouraging attitude. Feedback needs to be delivered with clarity, sensitivity, empathy, and should be part of the management training programs.
What are your thoughts on the role of feedback in the workplace? What tips would you add to the points made in this blog post? Leave a comment here or send us an email at email@example.com.
Vera Alves is the Chief Consulting Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience in leadership development and business management. With over 12 years of experience as a C-suite executive, Vera is highly skilled in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, operations management, organizational behavior, and change management. She possesses highly developed communication, training, and linguistic skills reflective of a very strong and charismatic leadership style.
 Clifton, J., & Harter, J. (2019). It’s the Manager. New York, NY: Gallup Press.  Buckingham, M., & Goodall, A. (2019). The feedback fallacy. Harvard Business Review, 97(2), 92-101. 3 Huston, T. (2021). Giving critical feedback is even harder remotely. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from Giving Critical Feedback Is Even Harder Remotely (hbr.org) 02/027/02021.