How to Give Constructive Feedback
Having a constructive feedback conversation
Many people find it hard to give constructive feedback. They shy away from tackling ‘difficult’ conversations. As a manager or leader its part of your role to manage the performance of your team and this is one of the best structures approaches that I know to give feedback in a way that doesn’t judge or attack the person. It focuses on their behaviour and the cause and effect that that has on the business, on the individual, on the team, on the customers, on the clients, on stakeholders, etc…
So the first step is to establish a constructive purpose.
Why do you want to have a constructive feedback conversation? What is the behaviour or attitude that needs addressing?
What is the problem that you want to address?
Typical examples of a Constructive Feedback topics might be; “needs to be more of a team player,” “needs to improve their time keeping,” “needs to improve their performance so as to deliver tasks on time,” etc.
Q. What is it causing? — Under achieving – delivering the wrong thing – they do what they want in the way that they prefer? – there’s a lack of trust as you never know what they are going to deliver – they behave inappropriately by telling jokes which sometimes causes offence and embarrassment – they challenge at the wrong time causing senior people to doubt their ability – some people don’t respect them as a leader so they are in effectual – they cause time to be wasted which causes resentment and frustration within the team.
Q. What do you want instead? — do you want them to deliver their goals which are specific and time bound? Do you want them to be consistent in their delivery? Be more aware of other people? Listen more and/or talk less? Be a team player?
Before you start the discussion, set out the outline for the conversation. Suggest how long the meeting will last and the structure of how you see the conversation rolling out.
Six Easy Steps to Giving Constructive Feedback
Step 1 – State the Constructive Purpose Statement — something like
My role is to ensure that my team deliver results to our customers in the time and cost agreed. I’m also responsible for ensuring that there is harmony and co-operation between people in this team and to develop and manage the resources within this team.
Step 2 – Constructive Feedback – What’s the evidence?
State the specifics of what you have seen, heard or have actual tangible evidence of. Example: you may have witnessed this person saying something to a colleague that was inappropriate, or to a client or customer. Maybe you’ve had some written feedback from a client about how this team member dealt with them. Or maybe you have noticed that they never turn up for team meetings, or they don’t join in or participate in discussions.
Step 3 – Constructive Feedback – State how you feel
Appropriate emotional language for how you feel about what they have done or not done. An example would be; concerned, confused or curious.
Step 4 – Constructive Feedback – Their turn to speak
This is when you would invite them to comment on what you have said. Remember to invite this by using your tonality and physiology as well as words. A curious tonality is useful here as you are not judging or condemning. This is a fact finding conversation. You are trying to establish if they are aware of their actions (or in action) and indeed if this is what actually happened from their perspective.
Step 5 – Constructive Feedback – Solution and resolution
Ask them for solutions. Engage them to come up with ideas, insights into new ways of behaving. Remember to use ‘Adult’ language (questioning) If they aren’t able to suggest solutions then you can either ask more questions or make a statement of what you believe is necessary for them to do. (This is possibly the least effective route)
Step 6 – Constructive Feedback – Summary
When giving constructive feedback, this is a very important step in the whole process. Remember they need to be the one that does this. You can always chip in if you feel it’s appropriate at the very end. But they have to own their own behaviour and agree what it is that they are going to do differently going forward.
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