How to Give Feedback Like A Champion

As a boss, talking to an employee about her performance is one of many key tasks on your daily to-do list. Keep in mind, though, that for your employee, that feedback session or annual performance review is likely the most important work event of the week or year. For best results, prepare carefully.

Give Feedback

Location, location, location

The location of your feedback session sets the tone and can make the difference between success and failure. An elevator ride is never a good place to have a respectful conversation about someone’s performance. Neither is an office with glass or porous walls surrounded by curious coworkers. Schedule a secure room in advance. Consider going offsite for more privacy from fellow employees.

Schedule plenty of time

This isn’t a casual meeting—take it seriously. ‘Hey, come in my office for a minute to talk about your job performance,’ doesn’t establish a framework for a good feedback session.

“Being caught off-guard won’t bring out the best in your employee,” says executive coach Joanne Korman Goldman, founder of JKG Coaching. Instead, schedule the meeting in advance and let the employee know the agenda.

Don’t be rushed. Make sure you’ve scheduled enough time for a thorough discussion. Too short a period of time is an immediate red flag. Your employees will conclude you don’t value them or care enough about their professional development.

Know your audience

Feedback sessions aren’t one-size-fits-all. Some of your employees may be thick-skinned and immune to all but the most plainspoken criticism while others are ultra sensitive and will assume they’re about to be fired if you frown.

If you’re aware that your employee is going through a tough time in his personal life, consider delaying the session for a week or a month. Your feedback recipient will be more open to hearing what you have to say when his personal life calms down.

Consider your desired outcome

Before you begin the feedback meeting, decide the outcome or outcomes you want. As you start the session, let the feedback recipient know the goal. Those goals might include:

  • Help improve or correct an employee’s job performance.
  • Prepare for future roles in the organization.
  • Help improve the team or department’s performance within the organization.
  • Discuss a project that failed and decide on how to approach such projects better in the future.
  • Praise an employee for excelling.

Start with caring and praise

As you begin the session, let the recipient know you care about him as a person and as a member of the team. You can never say how much you value someone too many times.

Highlight the employee’s accomplishments and wait for a response from the employee before offering criticism.  That helps build trust and rapport, which improves the chances your worker remains open later to where he needs to improve.

Frame criticism as opportunity for growth

If you tell an employee, ‘You need to do a better job presenting to clients,’ the employee will feel dejected and deflated.

Instead ask: ‘What were the key lessons you learned from giving your presentation to the client last week?’ says Sherri Thomas, CEO of Career Coaching 360 and author of The Bounce Back and Career Smart. That establishes an opportunity for the manager and employee to have a deeper, richer conversation about how to set up the employee for success for her next client meeting.

“Positive communication doesn’t mean that everything you say is nice and complimentary,” Thomas says. “Positive communication means that you’re delivering a message that will help your employee learn, grow and make bigger contributions to the organization.”

Great feedback fuels growth

When you show you're willing to partner with your employee for success, she will be more open to change. That benefits both the employee and the organization. A better team also makes you look better to your boss.

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