Forget quarterly and annual reviews. In today’s workplace, it’s all about instant feedback. Millennials have learned to expect instant responses to texts and very quick turnaround on Internet searches. As they populate the workplace in greater numbers, leaders need to learn how to engage their employees by providing regular feedback about performance much more frequently than they have done in the past.
The key word here is engage. Our younger professional colleagues have grown up in the age of instant feedback — in the form of fast answers to their questions. This is the new normal. Too often we hire them, welcome them to the team, and promise feedback. Sadly, that feedback might not happen until their annual performance review — if it happens at all. No wonder we struggle to keep them engaged.
Not only must we give regular feedback, but it must be effective. This is a critical skill for leaders at all levels to develop. Doing it well requires us to focus on the facts, or observable behaviors, take the discussion out of the realm of personal criticism, and then build a plan for improvement where needed.
We train leaders how to effectively give two types of feedback:
Reinforcing Feedback — where we want to reinforce the continuation of positive behavior or strong performance
Redirecting Feedback — where we seek to correct an inappropriate behavior or rectify poor performance
Feedback of either type starts with the leader presenting a clear feedback statement that defines the reason for the feedback. The feedback statement explains why the conversation is taking place. It sets the tone and should be descriptive, rather than judgmental. This initial statement during the feedback conversation is the single most important factor in determining whether or not the feedback will be successful. Here are two examples (one strong, one weak):
1) I was impressed with your presentation this morning. Going the extra mile to gather in-depth competitive intelligence will help us tremendously as we develop our strategy.
2) You are always rude to your co-workers. I think you have a poor attitude.
The first feedback statement above, which is a reinforcing one, is a strong example of an effective feedback statement. It clearly describes the positive behavior the leader seeks to reinforce (going the extra mile to gather important information). It also indicates the impact of the behavior on the business (it will aid the company in developing its strategy).
Conversely, in the second statement (a weak attempt at a redirecting feedback statement), the leader makes a personal judgment about the person (you’re rude and have a poor attitude). When giving feedback, it’s always important to avoid comments that feel like a critique of a person’s personal value. Also, the statement is vague. What does the leader mean by “rude”? What is meant by a “poor attitude”? This feedback conversation is headed in the wrong direction from the start! Such feedback statements often lead to confusion and defensiveness on the recipient’s part.
Giving effective feedback is a skill that all leaders should develop. By making a commitment to provide effective feedback at regular intervals, you will strengthen your leadership effectiveness and increase the probability for engagement and high performance in your organization.
To learn more about this critical leadership skill, we recommend downloading our eBook, Creating All-Star Performers: The Power of Effective Feedback.