By Ken O'Quinn
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Many managers are not good at providing feedback, yet it is one of the most important tools they have to improve a team member’s performance. Indeed, people rely on accurate, useful assessments of their work to help them become better at what they do.
Effective feedback not only provides guidance to help an employee perform tasks correctly, it also clarifies expectations, builds a person’s confidence, and fosters trust between a worker and the manager.
Essentially, useful feedback helps employees see how their performance is aligned with the organization’s goals, and it motivates teams to achieve at a higher level. How well people perform is directly related to their ability (from knowledge, skill, and feedback) and their motivation, explains psychologist Edward Locke.
Many employees have said in surveys they do not receive effective feedback, which is attributable in part to the fact that managers rarely receive training in management communication—not in college, not in MBA programs, and not in executive education.
Here are a few suggestions managers can follow if they want to give their team members useful, actionable feedback.
Don’t tell an employee that you would like to see “a better job” next time. Using specific language makes the feedback easier to process and remember than comparative adjectives, such as better, stronger, bigger, and nicer. For example, it’s more precise to say, “We cannot have any scuff marks or other abrasions on the surface of this product."
Go into a feedback conversation prepared. Think ahead about what you want to say. What issues need to be addressed? What is the outcome you want? What topics don’t need to be brought up? Don’t try to think through the conversation while you are having it, because you are apt to fumble your way through, or you might sound vague and uncertain.
Giving, receiving, and implementing actionable feedback—that leads to learning and tangible results—is essential to performance. One way people translate that feedback into action is by setting goals, which will be a topic for another post.
About the Author
Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach who has helped thousands of business professionals worldwide improve their ability to craft clear, compelling messages. He started Writing With Clarity following a long journalism career with the Associated Press and now conducts corporate workshops and provides one-on-one coaching. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill). His clients include Facebook, GE, Dell, Chevron, Cisco, Georgia-Pacific, KPMG, Campbell’s Soup, Oracle, Motorola, Reebok, Dow Chemical (China), SAP (Singapore), and Vale Mining Corp. (Brazil).
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