For those not used to giving feedback, the idea can be daunting. As a new manager it can be difficult to know how to provide feedback in the most effective way to help your people reach their potential. Everyone is different in how they like to receive (and give) feedback, here are some broad tips to get started:
Give feedback as close as (reasonably) possible to the event.
The more frequent and closer to the behaviour in question feedback is given, the more likely it is to be accepted. This is a benefit of continuous feedback where the delay between the action and the response is a matter of days or weeks, instead of 6-12 months later at review time. Also, if there’s an improvement to be made, it makes more business sense to do it sooner rather than later.
Keep an eye out for critical events
Critical events are key opportunities for feedback. They are times when a person's confidence and abilities are tested, and there is an opportunity for learning. This can include new jobs/projects, crisis events and coaching sessions; any situation that is unfamiliar with serious consequences and the employee isn't sure how to do it well. People want to judge how the event went, making them more sensitive to feedback.
Focus on the action, not the person
It's helpful to know that individuals receiving behavioural feedback (focus on actions) are more likely to develop positive orientations towards feedback than those receiving person-based feedback (focus on personal characteristics).
Eg giving feedback that a presentation went well because the person rehearsed and was well-prepared is more effective than saying they are a talented public speaker.
Understand the Feedback cycle
Feedback is a long-term process that can be broken into three key parts. This cycle repeats over time, and a person might be going through more than one cycle at a time if they’ve received feedback on more than one area.
- Anticipating, receiving and reacting to the feedback (short-term)
- Processing the feedback (can take hours, days or weeks)
- Using the feedback (long-term)
Managers need to know that immediate reactions to feedback are usually more emotional than logical, and that feedback that conflicts with the employee's view of themselves can take longer to process (or may not be accepted at all without strong evidence).
Processing the feedback involves interpreting it, understanding the meaning and dealing with emotions before deciding whether to believe or discount the information. Using the feedback may involve setting goals to accomplish tasks or acquire knowledge, or tracking progress towards objectives.
An established continuous feedback process is a great way to normalise the act of sharing feedback with a team member and helps managers maintain consistency over time. Check out this article on implementing a continuous feedback process for more information, or read about how to make feedback more effective at an organisational level here.
Much of the theory behind this resource came from this journal article: London, M., & Smither, J. W. (2002). Feedback orientation, feedback culture, and the longitudinal performance management process. Human Resource Management Review, 12(1), 81-100.
(It's worth a read if you want to go deeper into feedback theory, or just have a chat to the CS team!)