Accelerating the Advancement of Women Leaders 


December 12, 2018

It can be awkward to tell team members they missed the mark. Which is why too many managers shy away from providing specific performance feedback. But, rightly so, employees want to know how they’re doing. Forget about sandwiching criticism between two slices of praise and put together a new approach to sharing feedback employees can actually use. 
In a 2014 study from Workboard, 72 percent of employees said their performance would improve with more feedback. Most of us want to know how we can improve — we just don’t want a beatdown cloaked as ‘constructive criticism.’
And that’s where the problem often starts. Managers frequently limit feedback to times when expectations are not met. If, instead, we make feedback (positive and corrective) a regular part of our routine, we can create environments that increase engagement, performance and success. Consider a new way to give – and get – feedback.
Move beyond fear. It may make you queasy at first, but your team wants and needs feedback. Research shows a total lack of feedback actually breeds greater disengagement than critical feedback.
Increase the frequency. Feedback becomes less frightening and more useful when given more often and in context. Consider incorporating regular feedback into standing one-on-ones where you can connect it naturally to project updates. It will also help uncover obstacles that may be hindering performance.
Don’t confuse feedback with negativity. If you are truly providing team members with feedback, you are sharing positive comments and advice for improvement. In fact, unless there is a significant performance gap, you are ideally sharing far more positive notes than negative ones.
There is some dispute about the oft-cited research stat that says the ideal ratio is five positive comments to every one negative, but the general consensus is still that a strong ratio of more positive than negative comments helps motivate stronger performance.
Critical feedback has its place, however, especially in stopping things from really going off the rails. But positive feedback tends to motivate people to continue to do well or strive to do even better.
Cite concrete examples. Even when you need to share more general feedback such as encouraging an employee to “take greater initiative,” provide examples of how she or he could have stepped up on a recent project or an opportunity to do so moving forward.
Focus on the future. Professional coach and author Marshal Goldsmith advocates “feed-forward” instead of feedback. He suggests asking employees about skills they want to improve and then providing brief suggestions for ways they might do that.
Ask for feedback. Consider the possibility that you are part of the problem. Ask if you are hindering progress in any way or how you can better support the employee in meeting expectations.
Promote self-reliance. Help team members develop a critical eye for their own work. Ask probing questions such as: What went right with this project? What would you like to differently next time? Do you need resources, support or skills to make that happen? Encourage your staff to consistently ask these questions of themselves.
Taking genuine interest in helping team members perform to their potential is one of the most effective ways to make feedback welcome and truly constructive.

Back to News