Top Twelve Tips for Giving Effective Feedback

Constructive feedback lets people know how they are performing in their jobs and helps them learn and improve their performance. Here are our top twelve tips for giving effective feedback.

  1. Give feedback formally and informally - Offer regular informal feedback throughout the year. If you receive positive feedback from a project from other people then pass it onto your staff in a timely manner. Also, mention feedback in your regular 1:2:1 meetings with staff so that their annual appraisal is not the first time they hear about any concerns you have.
  2. Give positive feedback before negative - It is important that people feel empowered by the appraisal process if they are to improve their performance. “well done” needs to be elaborated into what was done well and why. You can ask staff “what went well?” and then reinforce it with your praise.
  3. Focus on behaviour - When making negative comments, offer feedback on observed behaviour, what you see and hear and not on assumptions or intentions e.g. “you were gripping your pen so tightly that your knuckles went white” rather than you were very stressed.”
  4. Offer a description of what you saw and how you felt - Not a judgement e.g. “when you shouted I felt anxious” rather than “you shouldn't have raised your voice” Instead of saying: "you disappointed me", say "I felt disappointed."
  5. Be clear and specific - Let the employee know clearly what you mean, using straightforward language and specific examples, e.g. “I liked it when you went to the door and said hello” rather than “you were very friendly.”
  6. Focus on behaviour that can be changed - It is not helpful to tell someone that a nervous twitch is distracting but a persistent drumming of fingers can be stopped.
  7. Avoid giving mixed messages - Mixed messages are “yes, but” messages e.g. “you have worked hard on this project, but….” What would follow is something the person is not doing well which is the real point of the message and tells the other person "don't believe a thing I said before."
  8. Choose the most important aspects - Nobody can concentrate on changing everything at once so set priorities. Focus on one or two key areas for development. If you offer too much feedback at once the individual will switch off so don’t swamp them with too much.
  9. Ask questions rather than make statements - This allows people the responsibility of reaching their own conclusions and forces them to think about the issues e.g. “how else could you have reacted when…?” rather than “you should have…”
  10. Establish standards in advance - Your employee should be clear about what is expected from them and the criteria against which they are being measured. Use performance goals as a basis for assessing their role and use SMART targets to write objectives.
  11. Verify their understanding - There’s no point in discussing an employee’s performance if they aren’t listening, don’t understand or don’t care. Check their thoughts and listen without interrupting. By engaging them in the discussion, you will both understand each other’s positions better.
  12. Develop an action plan – Your aim, as a manager, is to motivate your staff member and they should be clear about what to continue to do and what to start doing. Agree an action plan and a time for review.

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