“The road to self-insight runs through other people” ~David Dunning, Professor of Psychology, Cornell University

Does the thought of giving feedback to your colleagues and employees cause you stress and anxiety? If you answered yes, you are not alone. Offering feedback to others can be a challenge for many leaders. Often, there are several reasons for this, with fear being the root of our uncertainties. We worry about how the individual will receive the feedback, particularly if the information has underlying tones of negativity. Additionally, we have concerns regarding the effect on the working relationship between ourselves and the other person. In response to these fears many leaders evade offering feedback, believing that it is better to avoid possible tension and angst.

In many workplaces, the conventional approach to feedback is to address employee performance during annual appraisals or reviews. Yet, this method can have serious flaws. First, the focus of this feedback is on the formal, rather than informal. This has implications as it is often centred on the perceived weaknesses of the individual and past events. A lack of informal feedback creates missed opportunities for positive reinforcement. Second, there is frequently a lack of follow up after performance appraisals. This leaves the receiver of the feedback wondering if the changes they made were effective, or at worst, even noticed. Finally, annual performance appraisals do not support a culture of continuous improvement, as change is only addressed on an infrequent basis.

However, feedback can be a powerful tool for positive change. It can improve your relationships with colleagues, enhance your team’s effectiveness, and create conditions of trust and engagement within the workplace. The challenge for leaders is to move away from traditional techniques for giving feedback, and move towards an approach that is meaningful and empowering for both parties. Create a new approach for offering feedback with these four ideas:

  • Don’t just give feedback, ask for it. If we expect our employees to receive feedback from us, we must be open to receiving feedback ourselves. Encourage your colleagues and employees to offer feedback to you on a regular basis, and accept it with humility and authenticity. You never know what you might learn!
  • Offer feedback frequently. Avoid waiting for the annual performance appraisals. Connect with your employees and colleagues often and offer feedback in the moment as much as possible.
  • Start with the objective. Open your feedback conversation with referencing objective examples and observations. Presenting objective information creates space for a safe and an open exchange, the foundation for effective feedback. In turn, this contributes to a positive and constructive dialogue.
  • Offer feedforward. Feedforward is a technique that creates opportunity for positive suggestions and growth for the future, based on the strengths of your employees. This empowers people to be their own catalyst for change.

Learn more about how TallTrees Leadership can help you deliver meaningful feedback!