A Guide to Making Feedback Work

change management communication leadership leading change

Look up the word “self-evaluation” in the dictionary and you’ll be redirected to evaluation. Search for it in the thesaurus and you’ll be told there are no results. There is no word that is used to define self-evaluation.  

Because the truth is this: nobody is right all the time, including in your self-perception. Those things you're bad at? You're not nearly as bad at them as you fear. And those things you're great at? Probably not nearly as good as you hope. We do not have the ability to evaluate ourselves accurately, and that is why feedback is so important.  

The most important person to deliver feedback is a leader, boss or mentor. Without feedback or communication from their boss, employees become disinterested, and many industry leaders recognize that feedback is integral to their employees success (and retention). In fact, it’s the first thing many business owners consider when hiring. Recently the question was posed to Sheryl Sandberg: "What's the number one thing you look for in someone who can scale with a company?" Sandberg's reply: "Someone who takes feedback well. Because people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.” 

In order to achieve that learning and growth, however, we need to dole out feedback—which can often be an intimidating task. Just as it never feels good to hear “you’re wrong,” it never feels good to say it, either. Because of that fear of delivering feedback, we tend to temper it, meaning much of the feedback you receive or deliver isn't even very constructive. 

Feedback is absolutely integral to success, so how do we make it more effective? First, consider how you receive it. You have two options: 

 1.  You can put your feelings aside and try to learn from the situation. 
 2.  You can get angry and let emotion get the best of you. 
One method is proactive. The other method is reactive. Guess which will benefit you in the long run? 
Once you set aside emotions and resolve to accept the feedback, ask yourself these questions: 
 1.  How can I use this feedback to help me or my team improve? 
 2.  Putting my personal feelings aside, what can I learn from this    alternate perspective? 
In truth, adjusting your reception of feedback is easy—it’s adjusting your demonstration of it that can be a little more challenging. And as leaders, it’s more often our role and the indicator of our own and our company’s success.  
The secret to being an effective leader and boss is to be good at evaluation.  You should manage the activity of your team members, not just their results. Evaluate the steps they take to complete the task before them—whether that’s greeting a customer or restocking a shelf—rather than the end result of sales or some other measurable number. You must begin to focus on what you see on a minute level and provide feedback from the bottom up.  

As a boss, national sales director, general manager, or leader, your staff is looking to you to lead them in the direction of the company’s vision and mission—they’re craving that feedback. In order to be successful you have to be able to provide effective feedback without emotion.   

Start with these simple steps: 

1.     Observe the employee. 
2.     Evaluate the performance against the standard. 
3.     Provide feedback to improve performance. 

Now, that all-important feedback.  
1.     It is critical to focus on only one issue. Oftentimes we want to give a compliment sandwich to lessen the blow, but that actually creates confusion. Focus on the issue by writing it down and addressing it directly.
2.     Don’t just talk—ask questions and listen and address their thoughts.
3.     Help the employee understand why this contribution is important.
4.     Be prepared to experience “fogging.”
1.     Engage in two-way dialog to agree on a mutual approach that will be acceptable and implementable.
2.     The approach should be specific, tangible, understandable, clear and measurable.
3.     The approach should assist the employee in their contribution.
1.     Agree on what the job done well will look like.
2.     This conversation should improve your relationship.
3.     The result should be improved performance and a better contribution from the employee.

Your success is measured by your employee’s behavior, and your employee’s behavior is the result of your feedback. How will you give it?  


Great Mann Group content, right to your inbox.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.