3 Ways to Grow in Giving Feedback as a Leader

Jessica Thiefels

31 May 2019

Feedback is critical for any thriving business. Employees won’t know what they’re doing right—or worse, wrong—if their leaders don’t tell them. However, giving valuable feedback can be challenging. You need to do it often and structure it in a way that’s actionable. If you want to give better feedback to your employees, consider these three simple ways to improve.

1. Give a Mix of Positive and Negative Feedback

Feedback should always be constructive, which means it needs to be both positive and negative. In this article, Francis Briers, senior consultant with DPA Consulting, suggests looking at feedback not as good and bad, but as appreciate and formative (positive and negative, respectively).

These terms are actually chosen specifically to avoid the harsh connotation that comes with feedback, explains Francis: “I am being careful not to say ‘positive and negative’ because if it is all intended to help me learn and grow, it should all be basically positive.”

To see the importance of using a mix of both appreciative and formative, Francis suggests looking at it like a bank account: “Every time I give you formative feedback, I draw on our relational capital. Every time I give you appreciative feedback, I invest in our relationship.” Meaning, all feedback helps you build better relationships with your employees, whether you’re drawing on mutual trust or showing that you value them as an employee, which is why this blend is crucial.

If you can’t remember to maintain a balanced mix when giving feedback, create and use a preset form. For example, every piece of formative feedback should be supported with a piece of appreciative feedback, and using a form that provides a space for both types makes it easy to remember to implement.

2. Improve Your Review Process

While 94 percent of executives are happy with the current employee review process, 61 percent of employees feel their company’s process is outdated, according to a 2018 study from Reflektive. For many workplaces, this review is the only time employees get structured feedback about what they’re doing well and how they can improve, which is why you need to get it right.

Reviews are not only important for them, but for your company as well—the better feedback you give, and the more employees are engaged with the process, the more they learn, which benefits the business as a whole. Luckily, Reflektive’s data also found out what makes a successful and effective review for employees:

Make it consistent: While most reviews happen on an annual basis, 81 percent of employees would prefer to have them quarterly. Build this into the company schedule, just as you would all-hands meetings or board meetings.

Give real-time feedback: In addition to quarterly reviews, 94 percent of employees would prefer to get feedback in real-time. If something went well, say it. If there was a problem, address it. Don’t wait until the review to share this information that can help them improve in their job.

Create better structure: Employees find their review process to be outdated for a few  reasons: It’s too generic (22 percent) and it’s often incomplete (62 percent). Redevelop your review process, tailoring each review to the individual employee. To avoid providing an incomplete evaluation, create a structure for each review so managers don’t forget to address important areas.

3. Focus on the Future, Not the Past

While feedback is based on actions of the past, the focus should be on the future: how improving or continuing to do something that was already done well can be continued or improved as you look ahead.

Michael Schneider, human capital specialist for Welltower, suggests in this article, “Discuss what can be worked on to ensure performance improves and how you can be a resource to the employee moving forward.” The key is to insert yourself into the future conversation. Let your employees know you’re available as a guide to help them improve and avoid the same mistakes or build upon the success they already had.

This future-forward feedback allows you to bring structure to your feedback as well. Rather than simply saying what’s wrong or what’s right, you can turn the feedback into a conversation and a learning moment that helps the employee, and therefore the company, improve.

Give Better Feedback

Your employees are craving feedback, but they want it to help them become better at their jobs too. Use these tips to improve your review process, focus on the future and keep the feedback balanced. In the end, the company wins when the employee grows, making feedback important  for everyone.

Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, Fast Company and Entrepreneur. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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