Feedback is a Two-Way Street
Giving and receiving feedback in the workplace is essential, whether you're an employee or the boss. Having transparent, but respectful conversations is key to both career and business growth; without knowing what's working and what's not, no improvement can be made and a standstill occurs. There's opportunity for feedback every day; it could be an employee's annual review, how a meeting went, or on a project that's currently in the works. While most people know that feedback - both positive and negative - is important, sometimes it can be hard to convey.. Feedback should be clear, actionable, realistic, balanced, and consistent in order to be as effective as possible. Here are some tips and tricks on how to deliver effective feedback to anyone, no matter what their role or level.
Pay attention to your nonverbal communication; what you're not saying is just as important as what you are saying. People tend to read between the lines and look to the speakers' facial expressions, body language, and tone to get an idea of what's coming next. If you begin your feedback with a frown or avoid eye contact, it could trigger a negative response from the person you're connecting with. Smiling (to project warmth), maintaining eye contact (to foster a connection), and having a positive (or least a neutral) tone can create an environment where each party can feel relaxed and be able to focus on the spoken feedback rather than wonder what's coming next.
Be as clear and concise as possible; you don’t want to leave anyone guessing where they stand. When it comes to positive feedback be specific about what you liked; a "you did great at x, y, and z" has a larger impact than a "you did great today." This way the other party knows what is valued and can continue exhibiting the same behaviors or attitudes in the future. Negative or even constructive feedback is harder to give and is often sent in mixed messages, such as layering the negative between positive praises. However, being straightforward (yet considerate) is one of the best ways to do this. By keeping your comments factual and showing how the team/company was impacted by a behavior/action, the other person can clearly see what went wrong and learn from it.
Be timely - in the moment feedback is more useful than delayed feedback. It’s not beneficial to hear constructive criticism months later when it could have been improved right when an incident occurred. The same goes for positive incidents - if they're commented on in real time it shows that you're paying attention and makes the other party feel valued and appreciated.
Keep an open dialogue and encourage two-way feedback. Feedback shouldn't be given lecture style, where the speaker spends the entire time talking and the listener gets dismissed at the end. The listener should be asked to contribute to the conversation: for example, at the end of a meeting ask the other person to highlight what they feel they did well on and then add your own thoughts. When it comes to employee evaluations, allow an opening for comments or concerns. The other party may ask for clarification - what exactly about a specific behavior was good or what should they do differently next time. They could also ask for guidance in developing their skills or advice on how to tackle their next career goal.