How to give feedback like a pro

These days there are so many different managers out there – Product Managers, Marketing Managers, General Managers, HR Managers, IT Managers just to name a few. Whilst their role may differ in title and field of expertise, they all share one thing in common – being responsible for controlling and organising a group of staff.

Harness the most cost effective performance management tool on earth

A critical component for every kind of manager is being able to give feedback. Timely and well-structured feedback is the most cost-effective means to drive performance, continuous improvement, employee engagement and customer satisfaction along with a whole swag of other things. Towers Watson recently released the preliminary findings of its Global Workforce Study 20141, citing that both feedback and recognition are key drivers in increasing a manager’s effectiveness and employee engagement. Interestingly, the study also indicated that an absence of such feedback can contribute to work-related stress – something that no one wants to have in their workplace. For something so beneficial it’s a surprisingly easy process and, when done appropriately and consistently, is a powerful driver of organisational culture.

So, you want to give feedback like a pro?

Yes, like all the different types of managers, we know there a myriad of feedback models out there with varying acronyms and implications for your workplace.  There’s the BIFF model (Behaviour, Impact, Future, Feelings), the STAR model (Situation, Task, Action, Result), the AID model (Action, Impact, Desired Action) and the BEER model (Behaviour, Effect, Expectation, Result), the list goes on…  Whilst all of these models have merit; the key is in the structure or formula.  So whether or not you’re an experienced executive or a team leader in your first supervisory role, the principles stay the same.

We bet that at the end of the day, all you want feedback to do is one of two things:

  • 1.

    Reinforce good behaviour.

  • 2.

    Correct poor behaviour.

Fundamentally, your feedback should focus on including the following:

  • A description of the situation or context – this is an important piece of information as it frames the discussion.
  • The observation – this is the action the employee took.
  • The change or result – this is the outcome (for better or worse).
  • The takeaway – this is what you want to see moving forward.  It could simply be a continuation of what has occurred or an alternative method for handling or dealing with the situation.

So, whether you are seeking to reinforce good behaviour or correct poor behaviour you can use the above; just vary the delivery slightly.  Let’s consider two different circumstances to illustrate each point.

1. Reinforce good behaviour

Situation: On Friday when Tim Cook from Apple called looking for some support with an upgrade…

Observation:  I saw that even though you were working on some important changes to our website’s FAQs, you quickly reshuffled your priorities then promptly explained and went through the upgrade process.  You even went so far as to spending time with Tim following the upgrade to discuss and outline key changes to the software.

Result:  Over the weekend I received an email from Tim letting me know how much he enjoyed some of our new features.  He went on to say that without your assistance it may have taken him a week or two to find those new settings. The way that you managed your priorities and time is second to none – you recognised that Tim’s query was important and time sensitive, on top of that you provided great customer service.  This is exactly the sort of thing our customers love and it keeps them coming back!

Takeaway:  Keep this up!  It’s a great skill to be able to distinguish between what’s just important and what’s mission critical (important and time sensitive). Had you not helped Tim out so professionally, he may have had a whole weekend to brood and grumble over our service.

Delivery Tip: This sort of feedback should be casual and ad-hoc.  It’s best in the moment, but can also be reinforced in your weekly team meetings or a one-on-one. You don’t always have to focus on an individual either; feel free to use this with a whole team or a group of people that worked on something together.

2. Correct poor behaviour

Situation:  At the start of this week, I asked you to get a status report from the Product Development team for me before the Board of Directors meeting that was scheduled for the weekend…

Observation:  On Friday afternoon at 4pm, I saw that you went into the Product Development team’s laboratory and interrupted the technical lead so that you could get an update.  At that time, the team were conducting group-based assessments,  via video conference with some potential new hires from San Diego, California.

Result: I’ve seen the logs of the assessment days and also spoken with the team lead. The session which you interrupted can no longer be used as part of the assessment day, a critical and expensive part of our recruitment process.  On top of that, you were unable to provide me with the status report that I needed for my Board of Directors meeting over the weekend.

Takeaway:  Moving forward, I’d like you to consider how you manage your time as well as the impact this has the people who work around you. Rather than interrupting others when it suits you, reach out to them in advance and schedule a time that suits all parties.  This should help you to meet your own deadlines as well as enabling others to do the same.

Delivery Tip: In contrast, this sort of feedback should be given in a more formal environment as this will had weight and importance to the message.  Make a time to discuss it with the employee in person.  Ensure that you have a quiet room where you won’t be interrupted.  It would also be prudent to remember a time when you received some feedback which was delivered poorly – so give some thought to your surroundings and be sure your employee is comfortable. Finally, when considering the takeaway, it’s always a good idea to engage with the employee on how they could handle the situation more appropriately in future.

You’ll be amazed at the results that you and your team achieve once you start giving regular feedback. To make your day even easier, we have developed some great tools to help you capture then share feedback and recognition.  Check out our Performance Management page for more info.


Coaching guide

A leaders guide to coaching

Effective coaching is a great way of keeping employees engaged. This article will give you some essential tips on how to coach your team to get the best results.

SMART goals

How to write SMART goals

With this great memory aid, you can learn to write objectives the SMART way.

360 Degree Feedback Software graph

360 degree feedback

Whether you need 360 degree feedback for a leadership development program or you are looking for a tool to integrate into your Performance Appraisal process, we have a solution for you.