There is no point giving feedback unless you can drive to action – Jo Owen.
Giving feedback is one of the most important skills of man-management. It is a key quadrant II relationship building exercise and an important investment managers make into the emotional bank account of their staff. Done well feedback turns demotivated staff into motivated ones and provides a success formula for your staff to develop from. However giving great feedback is difficult and few managers push themselves to learn the needed techniques but they should.
Effective feedback forms an integral part of each staff member’s professional development success formula.
The first thing to bear in mind about feedback is it should be a structured scheduled activity, placed into staff member’s timetables and planned to happen once a month for new staff and every 3-4 months for more experienced personnel. It should not just be a reaction to failure or problems, rather it should form an ongoing part of their professional development. The second part of feedback is it must be participatory, providing a platform for the staff members to be involved in the process via self-assessment. One of the best ways is to have a self-assessment feedback form staff fill in prior to the feedback sessions (google forms can be great for this, see example below) which requires them to mark their performance on relevant skill and attitude areas as well as to comment on their improvement in personal target areas set in previous feedback.
Feedback should not just be a reaction to issues or problems.
There are also skills managers should exercise whilst giving feedback. First and foremost of these is we must see feedback as a coaching exercise where you help your staff discover for themselves what they need to do. Great feedback is guiding your staff towards self-enlightenment about their weaknesses and helping them work out for themself what they need to do, it is not a monologue list of your personal beefs about their performance. However likewise as a great coach you should identify key themed areas staff need to work on and bring them up with them. A great coach should have a clear “why” they need to improve in these and aim to get buy in proving it is in the staff member’s interest to work on them. Explaining why change is needed and matters over demanding it happen is proper coaching. Filling in the skill area forms for them and comparing your answers to theirs before the feedback helps to identify areas to work on. Then when you identify the themes you can think about some specifics that might help them improve in the themed area but aim as much as possible to elicit these from the staff member over just saying them to them (see SPIN model below).
As a coach you should identify 2-3 themed areas for staff to work on and create buy in to recognizing why they matter.
An effective guideline for passing on areas for staff to work on is the SPIN model.
S = Situation and Specifics
P = Practical Impact
I = Insight and Inquiry
N = Next Steps
“Situation” refers to importance of giving feedback in the right moments. Wherever possible, critical feedback should be avoided being given when emotions are frayed. Also it is advisable in general to avoid reactionary feedback to just “one problem” but rather use the set scheduled feedback times. “Specifics” refers to the importance of avoiding needing to go beyond “general” feedback, rather identify target areas and break them down to deliverable action plans. “Practical Impact” is used to help the staff member understand the consequence of their poor performance on others, be that on: a client, fellow staff member or you the manager and also ultimately on the mission of the company. What is important is to not mix in here your personal judgement as that will invite conflict. Rather you are trying to direct them towards recognizing that them not arriving to the level needed does have impact which is bigger than just them. “Insight and Inquiry” is a reminder of the importance to ask questions about problems,/weak areas aimed to help staff member to reach conclusions themselves about why they struggle. Finally “Next Step” is the final clear mutually agreed action plan. It is important the candidate feel like this action plan has been formed (all be it guided towards by you) by them as people always feel more connected to their own solutions
A good guideline for whether you were successful in doing feedback as part of a success formula is provided above. The list helps to judge how well you did your side to the feedback. For example if you lectured for an hour and the staff member walked out of the feedback with no commitment to change and without a deliverable action plan, then clearly you need to improve how you prepare and do feedback. You will need to focus on asking and involving over “telling” and will need to see the connection of “inquiry” (asking questions) to getting the staff member motivated to make up actionable deliverable improvement plan. Having this desire to improve your skills in giving feedback will also make it easier to make “next steps” mutual ones as you show your staff that like them you are prepared to work towards positive change. All managers therefore must see giving feedback as a sharpening the saw activity that you yourself keep on improving on in-order to adapt to the ever changing and ongoing development needs of your staff.
A manager who is great at giving feedback sees each feedback session as an opportunity not only for the staff member to improve but also for themselves to learn and develop.
A final important part of feedback is to link the agreed action plan to the realities of everyday work as without that change won’t happen. Action plans from feedback sessions should be connected to the ongoing direction provided by personal mission statements as this helps to link specific action needed to be done shorter term to the more global mission of what staff are trying to achieve that year or over a period of years. You should also have a established online work system for staff members to track their own progress and communicate how they are doing in their target areas. This should be done via short written updates every so often. Also they should use this work system as a platform to ask for help or guidance. The updates and tracking of progress in their targets areas should be mainly done by them but of course a manager should give feedback if staff aren’t pushing themselves much in their target areas. Also they should provide complimentary feedback when they see noticeable progress. This quick written feedback and communication is important in order to keep staff on track between the set scheduled feedback sessions.
Actions plans should have ongoing follow up and be linked to longer term missions.
So from now see feedback not as a reaction to an issue or a way for you to pass on your concerns but rather as opportunity to help guide a staff member to amazing personal professional development. Real amazing change in staff is possible when you become a master at creating a success formula from great feedback.