The power of (proper) feedback

Giving positive feedback is easy and most people enjoy it, although most people do not give positive or negative feedback well. The primary objective of delivering any piece of feedback is to allow the recipient to improve on the subject discussed, whether the feedback is positive or negative.

I have witnessed over and over again managers (including very senior managers) giving feedback badly. One of the fundamental mistakes is when a manager either tells someone that they are not good at the job, or they say, “You were very good today.” There’s absolutely no point in this feedback. How can the recipient improve upon their role if the provider of the feedback is not specific?

Ensure that when you give feedback it is specific, for example: “The way you managed Mr Smith’s complaint was outstanding. You were courteous and responsive and sought a solution quickly.” The takeaway for the recipient is that their attitude and behaviour was positive, and they can now mirror those attributes when dealing with the next customer.

Equally when the feedback is negative: “Julie, when dealing with Mr Smith’s complaint, you sounded very uninterested in his issue. You asked him to repeat his issue four times, and when he asked if you should take notes in order to remember it, you raised your voice and blamed his accent for your misunderstanding. You referred to him as Mr Jones on three occasions, made no attempt to resolve the issue whilst you had Mr Smith on the phone and did not agree a call-back time. Furthermore, you did not call Mr Smith back within the service levels that have been agreed and are part of the process.”

Again, the recipient of this feedback has very specific points to take away.

Remember delete, distort and generalisation? Aim to get buy-in from the recipient and get their take on how they can improve on the incident in question.

Feedback should not be left too long before being discussed. Always remember the old adage of ‘Praise in public and punish in private’. It is important that feedback is delivered within the right environment with the right audience and within a timely manner. If the incident is severe, then a one-to-one is an ideal forum to give and receive feedback.

The Feedback Process

1. Isolate the incident that is to be discussed, including within this the behaviour and outcomes
When giving negative feedback, it is always a requirement to remove any personal emotions you may associate with the incident. Be very clear on what happened, the chain of events that led to the incident and the outcome, rather than what should have happened, or, when giving positive feedback, be clear on what went well.

2. Clarify the facts
Isolate the incident and be very clear what the facts are. There should be no assumptions made.
If you have received feedback from someone else, they must be able to back up their report. Ensure you never go into a meeting with the statement: “Someone told me, and they do not want me to say who they are.” All feedback from external sources must be based on fact. Remember, everyone will delete, distort and generalise.
Always ask your team member for their take on the series of events. Where possible, tie down the facts. It will be difficult for your member of staff to separate their emotions from the incident.

3. Discuss the changes or duplication required
Working with your team member, discuss what changes must be made, or what the duplication should look like. Engage your team member.

4. Confirm the way forward
Again working with your team member, put in place a plan on how to carry forward the changes or duplication. This should be agreed by all parties involved.

Excerpt from The Step Up Mindset for New Managers by Margo Manning

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