The Cost of a Manager Not Giving Feedback
Angie had been with the company for 2 years. And still, she had yet to receive any kind of straight forward feedback or review of her work. She knew some projects did not deliver exactly what her boss expected. But she only knew this because of his under-handed comments or uneasy demeanor. Recently she prepared all the marketing materials for their tradeshow display. And instead of handing out any of her info-cards, her boss said, “Here, hand these out instead,” and handed her a stack of his personal business cards. “I think I can handle objective feedback, even if it is negative. In fact, I want it. But I don’t think he knows how to, and I am tired of the indirect cues.” Eventually, Angie put in her two-weeks notice and the company struggled to find a replacement of her caliber.
Why Giving Feedback is a Core Skill for Managers
There are two main reasons managers must provide their employees with feedback.
- Good employees want their managers to pay attention to their work. They want to “win” at their jobs. Instant feedback is the fastest way to create the learning loops they need to improve.
- Small issues are often only the surface of a larger problem. Slipping lead times or an employee unengaged in meetings are your leading indicators something larger is going on. Take Ray Dalio’s advice, and “once you identify a problem, don’t tolerate it. Don’t avoid confronting problems because they are rooted in harsh realities that are unpleasant to look at. View painful problems as potential improvements that are screaming at you.”
How Managers Can Give Effective Feedback
Here are four tips to help your managers start to give effective feedback.
- Don’t wait. As soon as you notice an opportunity to give your employee feedback, positive or negative, do it. If it is negative, don’t let it brew. You will either excuse it or aggravate it. If it is positive and you wait, you might forget about it as you move onto the next thing. So don’t wait. Have an aggressive mindset, not toward your employees, but toward dealing with problems.
- Use a formula. When you know exactly what you are going to say, it is a lot easier to initiate feedback. Here is a four-part formula from Manager-Tools that we have found helpful.
- Ask “Can I give you some feedback?” Leading with a question always lowers people’s defenses.
- Describe the specific behavior you noticed. “When you [describe specific action/]…” The more specific the better. If you can’t be specific, you are only leaving your employees with vague impressions of your displeasure, which accomplishes nothing.
- Describe the impact. “…This is how it affects the team/me.” Describing the real effects of people’s actions shows them the rationale behind the feedback.
- Discuss the next steps. If the feedback is positive, say something like, “thanks – keep it up.” If it is negative, try “What can you do about this? How can I help you?” Or, “Any thoughts on how you can eliminate this minor issue?”
- Start with positive feedback. If you give only positive feedback for a month, your employees will be used to the process of receiving feedback before you roll-out any negative feedback.
- Start with your top performers. When you start to roll-out negative feedback, start with your top performers. They can handle it and can model for everyone else how to respond.