Providing valuable feedback is a critical leadership skill. In most areas and situations where humans are at work and interaction, a ‘development conversation’ ensues. This focuses on the attitudes, capacities and skills of individuals and teams and the most challenging aspect is feedback. Feedback essentially implies a sense of evaluation and giving directions.
However giving feedback can be a challenging and difficult task for many because it isn’t easy; at many times emotions and personalization creep into it. But it is nevertheless a critical step in the developmental conversation process because it exposes people’s blind spots and the impact that it can have on others around in eventual achievement of goals.
Feedback must generally improve a situation; in short, it must not breakdown the process but instead, enhance it. Critical performance feedback can be provided in two essential methods –
- Constructive feedback – which is based on observations and is issue-specific and information-specific.
- Praise and criticism – praise is a favorable judgment while criticism is unfavorable. The information provided is usually general and vague, based on feeling and opinions and the person involved.
Ways to provide feedback
Being straightforward and being direct – getting to the point without rambling is crucial for both positive and negative feedback.
Avoiding phraseology that can send implied messages – e.g. “you have to fine-tune reports by checking spelling and editing” is not performance-oriented feedback. Providing clarity on situations and occurrences is the objective of feedback.
Avoiding mixed messages – e.g. “you have done very well, but…..” sends contradictory messages and actually tells the receiver of the message that the job has not been done well.
Expressing appreciation is positive feedback – this alone constitutes praise. By adding specifics to constructive feedback, a sincere message is expressed – e.g. “you handled this process well and showed good teamwork, thank you for helping to get accurate results which has greatly helped the team”.
Expressing concern is negative feedback – a tone of concern even in a negative feedback situation creates a sense of importance and shows that the person providing the feedback cares how it affects the receiver. Anger, disappointment, frustration and sarcasm can cause the content of the message to be lost. The purpose of negative feedback is to raise awareness that leads to improvement and correction; if not given in a helpful manner, the purpose is lost entirely.
Giving feedback directly – constructive feedback should be informal and verbal and can be given face-to-face or by a personal telephone call. Using email or short messages which are ‘messengers of technology’ are not ideal situations.