Holding Up a Mirror

It stands to reason that people want to understand how they’re doing, where they are getting it right and how they could improve, especially if they want to progress in their career. When delivered in the right way, feedback holds up a mirror, empowering them to act on shared insight, and blossom through improved understanding and self-awareness. Yet it is common for people to receive limited feedback which is either all positive or all negative. Or none at all. Some managers tell me they feel uncomfortable giving feedback, so avoid it even when they know they should share it. It’s just ‘awkward’.

But if constructive workplace feedback is proven to be one of the most effective tools for businesses and people growth, and more than doubles employee engagement levels, isn’t it worth embracing? The secret is to keep it simple and ‘safe to share’.

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1. Be authentic

Objective and fair feedback comes from the heart, with a genuine desire to help – anything less is counter-productive.

2. Establish feedback preferences

From the outset, ask your people how they’d prefer to receive feedback, e.g. Would they prefer feedback in private? Remember that people are individuals; what works well for one may feel insensitive to another.

3. Use examples for impact

An accurate illustration ensures clarity, e.g. What specifically went well or could be better? What was the impact of what happened?

4. Express how you feel

This makes the observation more meaningful, e.g. “That made me proud, because…” “I’m a little concerned about…”

5. Be empathetic

Be fully focused on the conversation and listen to the response; you may gain some valuable feedback yourself!

Spreading the Feedback Habit

Once embraced by leadership teams, I’ve seen feedback techniques have fast, wide-spread impact. It’s heartening to see barriers broken down and genuine communication happening at every level, across local and global teams and cultures.

The benefits can be significant, not only in terms of employee engagement and increased performance, but also enhanced client satisfaction and, ultimately, the bottom line.

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