Be co-operative on feedback

August 31, 2009
Filed under: Coach's Corner — Tags: , , , — jonimar @ 2:24 pm

Q: As a new manager, I have to give an employee some feedback on a job she thinks she’s doing well. How can I be direct without getting her back up?

A: Hard feedback is effective when delivered with a soft start-up. First, get a clear picture of how your employee thinks she’s doing and why. Suspend your opinion and explore her perspective with genuine curiosity. While you don’t need to agree, letting her know you understand and accept her will make her more open to your viewpoint later.

Point out qualities you value in her — irrespective of her performance — such as her initiative, determination and reliability. Be direct and specific about what is working and why: “You are diligent and meet your deadlines. You keep projects moving forward and on track.”

Provide clear, concise and matter-of-fact feedback about what’s not working. Point to the tasks — not her personally — avoiding all-or-nothing language.¬† For example, “your reports lack the necessary details to support your point of view.”

Any hint of impatience or blame will raise defensiveness. Calmly explain the cost to her: “When your reports are superficial, the reader can discount your logic.”¬† Demonstrate your commitment to her success by pointing to specific changes that would produce successful results: “Including relevant case studies and key metrics would make your argument more compelling.”

Let her know you believe in her ability. “You have a solid grasp of the issues. All you have to do is provide more back-up for the reader.”

Ask her what steps she’s willing to commit to and set a time together to revisit the issue.¬†Limiting the amount of corrective feedback and presenting it as a gift will leave your employee hopeful and motivated rather than daunted and demoralized.

Originally printed in The Province August 30, 2009.

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