Developing Others – Providing Formative Feedback

The skill of providing feedback in a manner that clarifies performance expectations, and motivates and inspires an employee to improve and enhance performance, is a skill that for most of us does not come as naturally as we would like.

Although providing feedback is something that we do from the moment we are first able to communicate our opinion, these first initial emotion-based means of communicating tend to continue to drive our feedback interactions with others well into our adult and professional lives.

Effective and motivating feedback must be clear and direct, leaving no room for ambiguity or confusion. Below are ten simple tips that can be used to help develop effective feedback skills.

Use Small Steps

Breakdown information into logical and sensible pieces that will allow the person to fully process the information and understand why and how performance must change.

Tailor Feedback to the Ability of the Person

Use terminology, theoretical information and examples that the person will be able to understand and identify with. Targeting the level of feedback is critical in developing both understanding and subsequent commitment to improvement.

Avoid ‘put-downs’

Feedback should never involve personal attacks or put downs as these lead to defensiveness and therefore resistance to listening to or responding to the need for performance improvement.

Avoid Diffusion

Feedback must be centered on the individual and therefore must not involve examples of others wrong doings. Language must be specific and targeted to what the individual is or is not doing and subsequently what you want or do not want them to do in the future.

Avoid Overload

Do not overwhelm the person you are providing feedback to. Do not necessarily plan to provide feedback in one ‘hit’, but be prepared to organize further discussions to provide feedback at a pace that will allow the individual to comprehensively understand and process the feedback provided.

Avoid Ambiguity

Feedback must be clear in describing both past behaviours that must be addressed, as well as describing what future behaviours are desired. Specific and relevant examples are critical, as well as the ability to answer logically questions that seek further information and clarity to help the individual take on feedback and reconcile it with current knowledge, skills and experiences.

Check Receptivity

For feedback to have its greatest impact, provide it when the individual is in a receptive state of mind to respond constructively to the information. Remain tuned in to how the individual respond to the feedback and again be prepared to alter your feedback schedule if the individual does not respond well.

Focus on the Performance not the Performer

Feedback must always be focused on the performance of the individual and conveying performance expectations. Feedback should never be focused on the personal attributes of the individual – rather the behaviours and outcomes that must be changed.

Give Feedback When it will be Most Useful – Timing!

Timing is critical for feedback to be effective. Consider the nature and content of the feedback and whether immediacy is warranted, or whether a time delay will be beneficial. Whilst feedback is usually most beneficial when immediate, allowing the individual to complete a task or waiting for a more private opportunity gain greatly enhance feedback outcomes, and ensure that other tips to feedback such as receptivity and overload are balanced.

Give Feedback Frequently

Feedback should not been reserved or saved up for specific predetermined performance review discussions. Feedback executed well is a series of continuous interactions that progressively refine and develop performance by modeling and detailed required behaviours and outcomes, whilst reinforcing and praising correct actions and improvements made.