Can We Talk? 6 Steps to Providing Feedback

Whether you’re a department head, a project lead, or a member of the C-Suite, being able to provide constructive feedback is an integral part of the job description. It can also be one of the hardest. When offering praise or correction, the manner in which you give your two cents matters.

Set the tone

Something as simple as starting your conversation with “Do you have a minute for some feedback?” can be the difference between a defensive receiver and an open ear. Asking this simple question establishes a tone of respect, which in turn starts the dialogue off on the right footing. Note: if you’re working on a project, build into your timeline a post-mortem meeting to assess what worked and what could have worked better.

Go in with a purpose

Remember why you’re giving feedback. Big picture: Your goal is to facilitate improvement or to encourage a repeat positive performance. The rest of the process will fall into place if you keep that one single fact in mind. Also, go into this meeting prepared. You don’t need a script but you shouldn’t go in planning on ‘winging it’ either. Know what you want convey before you start talking.

Provide specific examples

Again, remember your ultimate goal: Foster improved performance or continued successful actions. It’s not enough to simply say “You’re doing a great job” or “You could have been more professional in the way you handled the project.” Give specific examples: “You missed some critical deadlines on this project.”

Make a follow-up plan

While identifying what went wrong is important, making a plan to avoid such derailment in the future is better. Using the above example, after you’ve pointed out the missed deadlines, follow-up with “How can I help you stay on track on the next project? Let’s talk about what we can do to help you better manage your time to ensure you’re hitting milestones on target.”

Be prepared to listen

Feedback is a two-way street. It’s easy to think that providing constructive criticism begins and ends with your observation and plan; but it doesn’t. Be prepared to listen to what the other person has to say in response. You may want to review these tips too: 4 Steps to Becoming a Better Listener.

Don’t delay

Imagine this: you’ve been going about your tasks day in and day out the same way you always have. Your boss sets up a meeting for your annual review and you’re feeling pretty okay about it. After all, no one has complained. You enter the room with a smile that quickly fades as your boss unloads a list of not-so-wonderful feedback detailing ways you need to change what you’ve always done because it isn’t working. Frustrating, right? Don’t wait to give your team or an individual constructive feedback. Take time to offer regular, timely input about what needs to be changed or continued.