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Teach Your Managers the Art of Feedback

When an organization introduces a new initiative to train their managers to give feedback, a feeling of dread can often come over those managers who will be taking the training. Anyone who’s ever been a manager knows why – very few people are comfortable giving feedback. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are four key ingredients to feedback that every manager should know:

1. Begin with expectations.
Clear and concise expectations (written and oral) that include a description of what success looks like, are essential to successfully giving feedback later on. Expectations lay the groundwork for giving feedback, and virtually eliminate employee surprises. After all, if you expect someone to complete a project or task in a certain way, and they don’t do it, feedback and counseling should come as no surprise. Of course, if they meet or exceed expectations, that should be included in feedback as well.

2. Make feedback timely.
Many managers allow individual performance deficiencies, and the stress that can accompany them, to build up in their minds until they unload a barrage of negative feedback on the often unsuspecting employee. This is one of the primary reasons no one seems to like feedback – either giving or receiving it.

The proper approach, and best for all involved, is to give feedback (positive or negative) in a timely manner. Normally, that would mean immediately after you observe the behavior. When you do this, the recipient of negative feedback is less likely to react negatively, provided you delivered the feedback in a calm, yet matter-of-fact way.

3. Use the right venue.
There are basically two venues where you can deliver feedback – in the presence of other employees, or in private. Negative feedback and accompanying counseling should be given in private. You can give positive feedback in public, although it’s also OK to give it privately, especially if there’s some counseling involved.

4. Always follow-up.
This is especially important when you’ve given negative feedback and counseling. Providing follow-up feedback (positive or negative) regarding the individual’s progress in correcting the problem takes the pressure off the employee, making it that much easier for them to improve in all areas. Occasionally following up with additional positive feedback to the employee who’s been doing well reinforces their desire to perform well in all aspects of their job.

When you train your managers to give feedback properly, it not only makes giving feedback a pleasure for the manager, it becomes more welcomed by the employee.