7 Successful Tips To Help Leaders Give Negative Feedback Effectively
Managers who can effectively approach and navigate difficult conversations help develop struggling workers into thriving employees. Delivering negative feedback is the key to keeping organizations in alignment. When everyone knows where they stand and what’s expected of them, they’re more likely to remain engaged and productive.
While having difficult conversations is essential to leadership, most managers try to avoid it at all costs. Instead of addressing issues immediately, they leave it until the annual performance review. In turn, employees feel punished for something they didn’t even know was a problem. As a result, they become disengaged due to feeling attacked and that their development isn’t a priority.
Tammy Perkins, chief people officer at Pacific Market International, stated “if managers can deliver feedback in a clear, sincere, empathetic way, they can shape these conversations into powerful action plans.” A successful outcome depends on two things: how a conversation is approached and what was said during it.
Here are seven ways managers can improve the way they deliver negative feedback.
Know The Desired Outcome
Before approaching the employee to deliver feedback, review the situation and understand the desired outcome. The goal of delivering feedback is helping employees understand what success looks like for their role, the team and the company. Additionally, each person should walk away knowing what they’re working toward and what the desired result is.
Managers who approach difficult conversations without a plan risk letting the discussion stray from the desired outcome. To prevent this, managers can ask themselves two simple questions: “what is the purpose of this conversation?” and “what is the ideal outcome?”
Create A Safe Environment
All feedback, whether positive or negative, should be delivered in real-time to be the most impactful. While public praise is appreciated, negative feedback needs to be delivered privately.
Creating a safe environment means knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy ways to deliver negative feedback. The former creates a safe atmosphere where the employee is more receptive while the latter puts the employee on the defensive and makes them shut down and disengage.
Dr. Stacie Freudenberg, licensed psychologist at Luminate Psychological Services, said “yelling at or belittling workers for their poor performance only creates resentment, increases anxiety and reduces future performance.” The key is staying calm.
Most times, managers deliver feedback as a threat with little to no support. Fear provoking statements such as “you didn’t do…” or “you need to…” immediately puts employees on the defense causing them to withdraw from the conversation. Using the right language is vital to delivering negative feedback. Likewise, managers will benefit greatly by checking in to see what the employee thinks as well as seeking their feedback and opinions for potential solutions.
Ditch The Assumptions
Oftentimes, managers lead with their emotions and end up unintentionally criticizing a persons character. In most difficult conversations, the individuals have different perceptions of an event. It’s common for managers to assume others interpret information the same way they do. However, this assumption is what often leads to conflict.
Misinterpretations are common and it’s crucial for managers to stick with the facts and focus on the situation rather than criticizing a person based on an assumption. Brian Cairns, CEO of ProStrategix Consulting, impressed the importance of depersonalizing the situation. Cairns said by documenting the facts before providing feedback, it allows managers to refer to them when emotions are raised or use them as examples while teaching. Additionally, managers can describe the impact it had on the team, client or organization.
Seek To Understand Their Perspective
Dr. Stephen Covey said it best “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Some employees may shut down or respond defensively when given negative feedback. To prevent this from happening, managers should first give employees the opportunity to share how they thought they handled a situation or why they completed a task or project the way they did.
Giving employees the space to share their perspective gives managers insight into where a potential misunderstanding or challenge occurred. Active listening is fundamental. Even though a manager is delivering constructive criticism, the conversation should still be balanced between both parties.
Studies show, 47% of employees admitted their personal problems sometimes affect their job performance. By taking the time to build relationships with their employees, managers can better understand the root cause of their poor performance. Together, they can create a solution that works for everyone.
Perkins emphasized the importance of managers being authentic and leveraging their own experiences when delivering feedback. Not only is it a great way to offer perspective, but Perkins said it helps “set the stage for an open back-and-forth by talking about your own setbacks, challenges and failed attempts.”
Use This An Opportunity To Teach
Employees want to know they’re valued, supported and respected. Nobody wants to feel like they’re a child being reprimanded by an angry parent. Difficult conversations are a great opportunity to coach employees.
Mattson Newell, senior partner at Partners in Leadership, recommended managers to “cite areas in which employees are currently excelling, then ease into a discussion of areas where they could improve.” Newell explained managers should look at the present and toward the future when speaking with employees about their productivity. Conversely, they should revisit the employees past when speaking about improvements they’ve made in their quality of work.
Dr. Brooke Wachtler, licensed psychologist and founder of BEW Consulting and Training, LLC, stated managers should “collaborate with the employee to define these action steps so both parties are on the same page and there is an agreement on the new goal.”
Establish A Culture Of Feedback
Negative feedback isn’t the only feedback managers should be delivering. In fact, O Great One! author, David Novak, shared results from a recently commissioned survey with the Harvard Business Review and discovered 82% of Americans feel their managers don’t recognize them enough for their efforts. Another study conducted by Socialcast (now VMware) revealed 69% of employees say they would work harder if their work was recognized.
Perkins said “ongoing, continuous feedback is far more desirable and constructive than any other form.” Justin Havre, realtor at Justin Havre & Associates of RE/MAX First, added “the best feedback comes from someone who regularly lets you know what the expectations are, when you’re doing something right” and where you can improve.
Drive Accountability And Change
Managers can ensure accountability by following up frequently to make sure employees are improving. According to Partners In Leadership, 91% of employees reported accountability to be a top organizational need. Managers who involve employees in the process of creating a plan for the desired outcome ensures they’re held accountable to achieve it.
Setting milestones, shared goals, offering support and following up with employees will help keep them motivated. Questions such as “how can I support you?” or “what do you think you need more training on?” gives managers direct answers in how they can help their employee to achieve their goals.
Originally published by Heidi Lynne Kurter at https://www.forbes.com.