Delivering Effective Performance Feedback – Simple Steps For Success

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Does anyone really like giving or receiving feedback? Probably not – especially if it is considered constructive feedback. Yet, providing feedback is an essential part of managing performance. You cannot do one without the other so making feedback simple and direct might be one way to ease some of that dislike or discomfort we all feel when participating in feedback discussions. Having a straightforward process to do this is a key to successfully managing your team and your workforce.

The first step to simplify any feedback session is to prepare for the conversation as you would prepare for any meeting. You want allow enough time for the discussion so it is not rushed. Try to conduct the meeting in person if possible; remove distractions and make time to get input from the employee. There are a few other key points to remember as you enter into the meeting with the employee.

First, address the behavior, not the person. For example, instead of telling the employee that he/she is unreliable, state that he/she has been late to the last three staff meetings. Next, remember to present facts and examples, such as: “When we compiled our budget numbers for this year, the numbers you gave were unsubstantiated. We agreed that backup data was necessary for all inputs.” Also, describe the both the positive and negative impact of the behavior. For example, say something such as: “By not letting us know you have to leave early some times, other people had to stay late and finish,” or, “by you stepping in and helping in a jam, you continue to demonstrate great team effort. Several members of the team have expressed their appreciation.”

Another key factor to keep in mind is regarding when to give feedback and when not to give it. You want to provide feedback on the accomplishment of a goal, when you notice that performance or behavior is impeding a goal or objective, when actions or behaviors begin impacting work relationships and/or actions or behaviors are impeding an individual’s success. Do not give feedback when you or the individual are too emotional or if you are not the most appropriate person to give the feedback (for example, if you notice inappropriate behavior from an employee who reports to someone else, that feedback might have more impact coming from that person’s manager).

Now that you have all these tidbits in mind and are prepared for the feedback discussion, below is model to follow when actually having the conversation.

1. Open

It is best to open a feedback discussion by identifying the purpose of the discussion and what you hope to accomplish. When opening, be prepared with what you want to say that will specifically address the purpose and importance of the situation. In addition, think about what you are hoping to accomplish (for example, are you looking for improvement, change in behavior or is it simply a discussion to provide positive feedback). It is also helpful to consider what the impact of this situation and the discussion will have on the person or team. This may help frame your tone and demeanor. Clearly, if it is a serious situation that has had serious consequences, the tone and demeanor will vary than if it is a situation that has been positive.

2. Discover

The next step in this model is to Discover. This is when you will share information and seek to understand the situation from the employee’s perspective. Think of this step as the “question” step. Ask questions about the particular situation and find out exactly what the employee did and why he/she made the decisions that he/she did. Again, you want to be thinking about what outcome you are trying to achieve and also put yourself in the employee’s shoes and consider what he/she might be concerned about.

3. Develop & Plan

The next step in this model is to develop and plan.

First you want to develop ideas for improvement with the employee. Seek out ideas from the employee and ask what he/she thinks is needed to be successful. Then share your own ideas. Ask what support the employee needs and ask yourself what support you can provide. You will then want to plan for action. This is when you discuss the specific steps and actions that will be taken to improve and reach the desired state. What steps need to be taken? Be sure they are realistic and challenging but not unattainable. Ask what support the employee needs and be open to providing that support. Remember, you ultimately want improvement so getting the employee on board with the plan for improvement is a vital step towards success.

4. Remove Barriers

The next step is to remove barriers. As you discuss the plan for action and what resources are needed, obstacles to success may come up. If they do not, then you need to seek this out and find out from the employee what he or she believes will prevent improvement or success. Ask questions such as “what roadblocks might you encounter?” and “how can I help support you in removing them or getting around them?”

5. Recap

The final step is to recap the discussion to ensure buy-in and that the employee understands the expectations. You want to be sure the employee leaves the meeting feeling confident and believing in his or her ability to be successful. Ask the employee what he or she is taking away from the discussion and what the first step in the action plan will be. Set up a follow up meeting and make yourself available for continued support.

Following this feedback delivery model as well as ensuring you are prepared for the discussion and providing the feedback at the appropriate time can and will make the process more simple. Having a more simple feedback delivery process and model will most certainly assist in your ability to successfully manage your team and your workforce.

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