I like to call feedback feedforward. It changes our mindset to a more positive and helpful one where the conversation supports our team’s growth and development.
Constructive feedback requires a leader to alert a team member to where a problem lies and what actions or behaviors need to change for their success, but it also requires the ability to provide counsel while not undermining their intrinsic motivation or trust.
- Loose the emotion. We are not effective when we are mad or frustrated. It actually takes away our ability to effectively articulate our message in a clear, specific, and respectful manner.
- Do it in private. Never provide constructive feedback in front of others. Not even a disapproving eyebrow raise.
- Make it short and make it direct. Ensure that you get the point, do not add on other things you’ve been meaning to review with that team member. It just muddy’s up the message and the teammate leaves confused.
- Provide feedforward ASAP. Do not wait! Timely feedback with very specific examples will help to provide clarity to what needs to change.
- Provide feedforward in the manner they chose. When your teammate first came aboard you asked how they wanted to receive constructive feedback. Provide the feedforward in the manner they requested. Remember that feedforward is a two-way dialogue – it’s about performance results not punishment.
- Let them use their voice. Share the specifics of what you witnessed or what a customer experienced in detail and ask for their recollection or experience. Don’t assume what you’ve heard from a third party is accurate.
- If they are silent during or after the conversation ask why. Don’t stew over what someone may or may not be thinking. Just ask for their thoughts. It may also be their response to receiving difficult to hear information.
- Share your concerns about their actions and/or behavior. People want to do a good job and to be supportive of their leader. Be straightforward, compassionate yet direct, otherwise you’ll risk losing the power of the message. Share how the situation affected their teammates, customers, and refer to the organization’s performance expectations and how their action or behavior is not in line.
- Mutually decide on the best course of action. We’re all adults. As a successful leader you have a lot of ideas on how to get things done yet having the teammate set the plan creates their buy in. They will take ownership for something they designed over something suggested.
- Connect the dots. Make sure that the teammate is crystal clear on what they need to change or focus on to improve their performance. Ask for them to reiterate the message. Also be clear on the next steps if they are unable to embrace and/or incorporate modifications to their action or behavior.
- Set up a follow up date/time to review progress. This is just as important as providing the feedforward. Sometimes it takes time to make a change and your following up with them gives them the opportunity to be held accountable and/or to hear directly from you hat they are making progress. If needed, set up another follow-up date/time.
- Documenting the situation in your notes. Always keep notes with regards to personnel related interactions – criticism or praise. Remind your teammate of your leadership role in the organization and the duty you have to them and the organization. If this is a one and done conversation for goodness sakes tell them they can be excused from their job (AKA fired) if they do it again. It may sound harsh but wouldn’t you want to know the gravity of your actions, decisions, and actions?
These notes will help you to write your performance evaluations before the time comes to write them. We’re all busy and cannot be expected to remember all of our interactions from month’s heck even weeks ago.
- Create a file either paper or a Word doc with each team members name on it. Include your notes on positive and constructive actions and behaviors. Recording only constructive instances will unfairly bias your evaluation. Update your file after each monthly or bi-weekly 1 on 1 meeting as well as any coaching you’ve provided or teammate or customer praise. Don’t forget to secure and lock your paper files and password protect your Word docs.
- Record the date, time and day of the week of the situation. This will help you ID potential patterns or challenge prior to them becoming serious.
- Write observations not assumptions. Comments should focus only on specific actions and behaviors that are not in keeping with performance expectations. Don’t make assumptions about the reasons or judgments about an employee’s character. Keep it to the facts and only the facts. Choose the language you use carefully – remember these logs can be used as evidence in a lawsuit.
- Keep out biased language. A good rule of thumb is any statement that would be inappropriate in a professional conversation is also inappropriate in the file. That includes references to age, sex, race, disability, marital status, etc…
- Be brief but complete. Log examples not general comments.
- Track trends. If you begin to see patterns, make notes referencing to previous entries.
- Don’t include rumors or speculation about the team member, theories about why they behave a certain way or, information about their family, ethnic background, beliefs or medial history. Also your opinions about the employee’s career prospects or unsubstantiated complaints against them.
I live in California, the most litigious state; this post reviews a few best practices to take care of you if your organization has not yet given you the training or the guidance on how to deal with personnel situations however; always follow your organizations’ policies and procedures with regards to coaching and feedforward.