Research shows that feedback is one of the best tools available to help your team members learn, grow and feel engaged at work. Corrective feedback clarifies and reinforces expectations, and helps your team understand what they need to do in order to be successful in their roles.
Positive feedback (a.k.a. praise and recognition) boosts their confidence in their abilities, makes them feel appreciated and respected, and has a profound impact on their motivation. In a study by McKinsey & Co, employees actually rated praise and recognition from management as a more effective motivator than cash bonuses.
There are a number of models to help you structure feedback effectively. One of the models we like to use is the Situation, Behaviour, Impact model with the addition of a fourth step - Action. The Action step is only necessary when giving corrective feedback.
When you're giving feedback, the first step is to define the where and when of the situation you're referring to. This puts the feedback into context, and gives the other person a specific setting as a reference.
- "During yesterday morning's team meeting, when you gave your presentation..."
- "At the client meeting on Monday afternoon..."
The second step is to describe the specific behaviours that you want to address. It is important that you only talk about the behaviours that you observed directly and not about the person themselves.
- Corrective: "You spoke rudely to a client" vs. "You are a rude person"
- Positive: "You spoke calmly and confidently" vs. "You are a great speaker"
When giving corrective feedback it is also important that you don't make assumptions about what was/is behind the behaviour. Your assumptions could be misguided, and this will undermine your feedback. For example, if you observed that one of your team members spoke rudely to a client, don't assume that it was because they were in a bad mood. You should simply mention the observed behaviour and give specific examples.
- Do not say: "You must have been in a bad mood because you were quite rude to the client."
- Instead say: "When the client asked you about the delays with the project, you became very defensive and it came across as quite rude."
The third step of the feedback process is to describe the impact that the behaviour has had or could have had. It is important that the person understands the positive or negative consequences of their actions.
- Corrective: "In the presentation yesterday, the client asked you a number of questions about the delays with the project, and you responded in a defensive manner. When you respond like that it comes across as rude and it damages our relationship with the client."
- Positive: "At the client meeting on Monday afternoon, you spoke calmly and confidently even when the client asked you some tough questions. When you handle yourself like that, it shows the client that you are professional, competent and trustworthy. Well done."
If giving corrective feedback, the last step in the process is to explore the reasons why the behaviour happened and work together to determine what needs to be done to prevent this from happening again. This part of the process is not strictly feedback as it is a two-way conversation, but it is essential for ensuring that the appropriate steps are put in place to address the behaviour.
- "Was there any reason why you responded in that way?"
- "What do you think you can do to better control your reactions in the future?"
Another method of delivering feedback is the stop-keep-start method. It incorporates both corrective and positive feedback into the one model for effective all-round performance feedback. It was originally designed as a way of requesting feedback from others to be able to reflect on your own performance, but it works extremely well as a tool for giving feedback to others.
To use the stop-keep-start method for giving feedback, think about the team member's performance and behaviour, and answer three simple questions:
- Stop - What are they doing wrong or doing poorly that you would you like them to stop doing?
- Keep - What are they doing well that you would like them to keep doing?
- Start - What are they not doing that you would like them to start doing?
- Be timely - Feedback is most effective when it is given as close to the event as possible.
- Choose the right setting - Corrective feedback should always be given in private, however positive feedback is more of a personal thing. Some people like being praised publicly, while others find it embarrassing and would prefer a quiet “thank you”.
- Do it calmly - You may find yourself giving corrective feedback about an issue that you found particularly upsetting or frustrating, but you don't need to get angry to get your point across. Keep calm and in control.
- Give feedback often - Don't wait for exceptional circumstances to give feedback, make feedback a regular activity.