4 Ways to Make Feedback Easy

Posted on October 23, 2014.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been hearing a common refrain from the folks I’ve met: “I never receive any feedback”.  To the rank & file, they find it frustrating as they want to move up and are not sure how orwhat they need to do to achieve their goals.

Regular feedback is not a “nice to have”; it’s a “must have” that every manager should learn to provide on a regular basis. I’ve written a lot about the Annual Performance Appraisal and my hope that it dies a quick death.  Feedback should be given regularly, and preferably, after a specific action has taken place.  An annual meeting should be focused on a development plan, not feedback. 

I’ll admit that giving feedback is not easy, especially if you’ve never really done it. It is hard to tell someone else what they should be doing, or not doing. So here are a few ideas to help you morph into a feedback king or queen:

1.    Start with yourself.  It’s your job to create a culture where feedback is not only given, but expected.  Start by soliciting feedback from partners and peers. “ How am I doing?” What would you like to see me do more of or differently?”  Not only will you set a great example, you’ll strengthen the relationship you have with peers and partners.

2.    Lead with the positive. This is not a new concept, but I continue to see people only use feedback as a way to criticize. In my experience, positive feedback can change behavior faster than negative feedback. So no matter how bad an action or outcome may be, find something positive to say first. Then, instead of pointing out all the negatives, try saying,” Here’s what you could have done better.”

3.    Make it timely.  The biggest reason that using annual performance reviews as the only mechanism for feedback is that they are, by their nature, dated.  Having completed hundreds over the years, I’ll admit that I usually defaulted to behaviors and activities I could recall from less than 90 days out.  The smart employee would keep track of his/her accomplishments all year and be prepared to fill in the gaps, but those people were few and far between.  Feedback is most effective when given right after someone has completed a task.  It doesn’t have to come after every single activity. When someone does something for the first time or a major milestone has been met, it’s a great time to tell someone that they performed well.

4.     Create a culture.  You shouldn’t be the only one soliciting feedback.  Now that you’ve set the example, encourage others to say, “ What did I do well, and what could I have done better?”  Let’s face it, if you do something over and over again, it becomes a habit and can create a culture where feedback is not a rarity but expected.

The reality is that even top performers want to know how they’re doing. They want to know what they need to do to get to the next level.  When you receive feedback, make sure you say, “thank you”. It really is a gift that should come more than once a year.