Often feedback sharing is a complex and confusing experience for the receiver because not much is known about where the inputs were received from and why they matter. Also, feedback is captured poorly and therefore helping receivers appreciate the context is difficult and can end up demoralizing rather than uplift the spirits. In the blog post, I share perspectives on how managers can communicate feedback in a constructive and appropriate manner.
- Ask the right questions: This is probably where the biggest gap occurs when feedback is sought. Rather than asking for what the team member did or how it helped stakeholders, focus on the positives. Ask questions which will help them provide inputs constructively even if there are specific gaps or concerns. It will put the spotlight on what can be done to get better and not to pinpoint faults. Help stakeholders know the roles and responsibilities the team member plays and how they fit into the bigger picture.
- Be transparent about the sources: As the manager or leader, your role is to make the feedback objective and supportive. While you may be mostly aware of who your team engages with, give them the opportunity to list stakeholders they prefer to get feedback from. That shouldn’t be the only source though. Use your judgement on who else to ask – maybe agencies, partners, peers, other team members etc. Let the reviewers know you are going to be capture their feedback in the aggregate and not share verbatim comments or inputs. Feedback giving isn’t an exercise to ‘figure’ out who said what. That defeats the purpose.
- Synthesize the feedback: Reading through the comments and transcripts is the most time-consuming part of the exercise but an important step. Look for patterns and corroborate it with your experience with the team member. Does it resonate or is it a one-off? Do you see emerging trends or patches of great work or poor effort? Is it a skill challenge or a technical inability? Think through and document the feedback in a way that helps you communicate clearly.
- Communicating with candor: Before sharing feedback, ensure you set the context and perspective directly. Remember to share from how many stakeholders responded and what does it mean in terms of their effort to appreciate and grow the individual. Mention how the feedback is to be received – without judgement, listening first to understand and then speak if there are clarifications. Also, that feedback is a gift and not an attempt to slander and dish out poor ratings. If you have been having regular and periodic conversations as a manager, you can be sure feedback will not be a surprise. Lastly, what the individual does with the feedback is left to him or her. What matters is that acknowledge it and make effort to demonstrate positive intent to get better. Even if it is your best performer, there is always something more to be done to get stronger.
- Create action oriented next steps: Giving feedback and then forgetting about it is wasteful exercise. Remember to confirm that you are going to continue observing and guiding as they progress with their goals. It isn’t a one-off attempt but an ongoing continuous cycle. They should also have the freedom to give you, as a manager, feedback on areas of improvement. Explain that the individual needs to own the plan of action from here onwards and it isn’t your responsibility to chase up. They can choose to set up a recurring conversation to share updates and progress they are hoping to make.
- Have ways to gauge progress and improvement: Remember to close by sharing you are always around to help them continue to get better at work and your responsibility is to help support when needed. You are as responsible as they are although their careers are in their hands. How they want to shape it is dependent on how they use the feedback received. Otherwise, the same feedback will appear the next time around. Or, stakeholders will stop giving feedback in the long run.
Feedback is fundamental to any individual’s growth and success. The manager has a crucial role in ensuring the feedback given is constructively shared with positive intent. The rest is left to how the individual picks up the thread.
Thoughts? Have other ideas on improving the feedback process? Share them here.
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