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4 steps to give better employee feedback every time

The feedback you give employees often falls on deaf ears. So how can you be heard?

Give more meaningful feedback – whether it’s negative or positive – to make an impact.

Professional trainers Karin Hurt and David Dye ask in their leadership development programs, If you knew your manager cared about you and had your best interest at heart, would you want meaningful performance feedback – even if it was hard to hear?

“The answer is always a resounding ‘YES!’” Hurt and Dye said.

Most employees can turn negative feedback into something positive. Even better, most employees can take positive feedback to a higher level … as long as you make it meaningful.

1. Review expectations

Before you give feedback, review expectations. It’s especially important if an employee missed goals. You want to make sure you both have a shared view of success.

It’s only fair to start a feedback conversation when you’ve agreed on expectations. One sure way is to always document expectations, goals and objectives.

2. Plan for a 2-way conversation

Feedback is much more than a leader telling an employee what’s right or wrong.

You want to INSPIRE during feedback:

  • Initiate the conversation with something as simple as, “Is now a good time to talk?”
  • Notice a specific behavior. Refer to actions, not attitudes. For instance, “I noticed you rejected the six suggestions your teammates made.”
  • Support with objective evidence. Example: “When Dean started to talk about involving IT, you cut him off.”
  • Probe by getting their perspective. Ask, “What’s going on?” or “Why do you think this is happening?”
  • Invite solutions. Get employees involved by asking, “What do you think you can do to resolve this?”
  • Review with a check for understanding. Say something like, “Great. What I hear is you’ll do X going forward. Is that right?”
  • Enforce by scheduling a mutual follow-up. You might say, “The team meets two times next week. Let’s chat on Friday to talk about your progress with this commitment.”

3. Agree on understanding

Once you’re ready to move forward with feedback, you’ll want to make sure you both understand and agree on actions and emotions.

For action, confirm what will happen next. Say, “What’s the first (or most important) thing you’ll do when we leave this meeting?” This way, you’re sure they’ve agreed to what’s been said and will be done.

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