Out of all the types of leadership communication, feedback is the most reactive. Coaching, mentoring and motivational conversations are directed toward future action. Feedback recounts past events and dissects the outcome.
Because feedback involves direct critique of performance, leaders should take special care when initiating feedback conversations, not only to avoid conflict but to reach employees in a space where they will be receptive, according to Harvard Business Publishing. They also shared a few more tips through Harvard ManageMentor, their learning platform.
Timing is important. Giving situational feedback as close to the event as possible is ideal, but good leaders will also wait until the employee is in the right frame of mind, even if that means a slight delay. Communicate your intentions to have a feedback dialogue and wait until the employee says they are ready.
Don’t shy away from situations that call for corrective feedback. These conversations are in the company’s best interest, and the employee is also well-served by receiving thoughtful appraisals of their performance.
Once an employee is ready to receive feedback, allow them to present their thoughts first. People are usually more receptive to others who take time to listen. Additionally, any feedback will only become more relevant after it’s tailored to specific thoughts the employee is voicing.
Keep feedback conversations strictly fact-focused. Concentrate on behaviors rather than personality traits. Be sure to note the positive and negative ways the employee’s work affects the rest of the organization.
Limit feedback to a few specifics so the employee doesn’t become overwhelmed. They need to believe they are capable of meeting expectations. As soon as you’ve finished, be prepared to listen again to get a sense of how the employee is processing the feedback. Ask for reactions or questions so everyone walks away from the discussion with the same understanding.
Remember that feedback should not occur only when someone makes a misstep or shows a need for improvement. Taking time to give feedback to employees who are performing well will reinforce positive behaviors and make feedback conversations a lot more palatable to your team.
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