Feedback can be a powerful tool. Of course, positive feedback can make you feel like king of the world. “Your report looks great.” “You are exceeding the expectations of your team.” “You’re an effective leader.”
But negative feedback can set you back, make you depressed and rattle your confidence. “Why can’t your numbers look like Joe’s?” “Why are you always late with your report?” “You really need to manage that customer better.”
Get the picture?
Today, instead of talking about negative feedback, we are focusing on “constructive feedback” —identifying and promoting change in behaviors that detract from high performance with these tips from published author and business executive, John Reh.
1. Be calm. When giving constructive feedback to improve an individual’s behavior, you want to be calm in your approach. If it’s an emotional issue, let your emotions subside before addressing the person, even if it means waiting a day before providing the feedback.
2. Never deliver negative feedback in front of team members. Being respectful to the individual is very important if your goal is to improve behavior and build confidence. Find a private place, like your office or a private conference room, to have the discussion and make sure the setting is professional and business focused. For example, a loud public setting like a Starbucks is not the best option. And do not address anything in front of colleagues or discuss it with colleagues. Keep the discussion private.
3. Focus on the observed behavior, not the person. As Reh points out, the purpose of constructive feedback is to eliminate behaviors that detract from high performance. If the individual perceives he or she is being attacked personally, the person will quickly turn defensive and the opportunity for a meaningful discussion will be lost. It’s important to not make it about the person’s character but about the action itself.
4. Be specific. In order for someone to change behavior, you have to be very specific about what change needs to take place and why it needs to change. Explain the impact to the business. Simply stating that “You need to do better” or “You screwed up” is certainly not effective.
5. Be timely. According to Reh, the best time to give constructive feedback is as soon as the action has taken place so that it’s fresh in that person’s mind. Also, you can focus on something tangible that the person can change right away. Feedback of all types should be given as soon as possible after the event.
6. Reaffirm your faith in the person. Most important, remind the person why they are on your team. Reinforce the good qualities that they bring to the table and why you have faith in their abilities. End on a positive know and give them the confidence and energy they need to make a change.
Feedback is a key component to growing as an individual. View constructive feedback as a positive action that can help someone, and be compassionate in your approach.
Source: John Reh is a senior business executive whose broad management experience encompasses managing projects up to $125 million and business units including up to 200-plus people. A published author, most recently as a contributing author to Business: The Ultimate Resource, Reh has set aside time throughout his career to mentor newer managers, often women and minorities, in the art and science of management-a skill that can be taught and learned.