leadership, Skills & Growth | Article

7 Guiding Principles of Giving Feedback

According to Gallup, only 21% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they have received meaningful feedback in the last week.

Some leaders shy away from giving feedback because it’s uncomfortable. Some are willing to give it but are ineffective in doing so. Either way, the result is the same: Few employees are hearing what they need. To effectively provide feedback, consider these seven guiding principles:

1. Be timely and future-focused

First and foremost, be timely. Promptly deliver both praise and constructive feedback. It lets your employees know whether to keep doing what they’re doing or make immediate adjustments. Emphasize how adjustments or improvements will lead to growth and future success.

2. Be clear and concise

Be clear and specific to help your employees internalize what you’re saying. People can typically only internalize one or two points of feedback at once. Avoid giving too much at once or constantly sandwiching constructive points between lots of praise. It’s less likely to stick in their minds that way.

3. Own your feedback

Use first-person statements to own the feedback you give. Saying, “A colleague is complaining about you,” undermines team dynamics. Encourage your entire team to directly own their feedback and be direct with one another. It will also foster a culture where people feel they can be open and candid.

4. Highlight strengths

Point out positive behaviors so employees can recognize their own potential. You can help them achieve their full potential by leaning into their strong points. Working on weaknesses is important, but less effective than fine-tuning strengths.

5. Explain consequences

Behaviors and actions sometimes have unintended consequences. Employees may not realize it, so be sure to walk them through the effects on other team members, the company and their own potential for advancement. Do so in a kind way and focus on pointing out things that are in their control to change.

6. Communicate frequently and collaboratively

Regular, ongoing conversations develop real relationships and collaboration. If a team member is not achieving their goals, talk with them to find out why, what could help, and which obstacles can be removed. Brainstorm possible solutions together and do lots of listening. You’ll be able to better understand employees’ concerns.

7. Ask for feedback

Set the example by asking your employees for feedback. Doing this makes employees feel comfortable asking for feedback in return. Plus, asking for their opinion will help you see your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader so you can keep growing too.  

The Importance of Praise

Many of the seven guiding principles have to do with constructive feedback. But it’s important to keep in mind that the most effective form of feedback is praise. Gallup has found employees should be recognized for great work about once a week. Why? Because recognition reinforces an employee’s belief in their own abilities and skills. It motivates and inspires them. So, while constructive feedback is important, don’t forget to offer praise even more frequently!