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How to give performance feedback that's actually helpful

In the workplace, the quality of feedback can make the difference between a stagnant team and one that thrives.

That's why mastering the art of giving feedback is essential for managers and team leaders.

We'll cover the characteristics of good feedback, the power of specific examples, the delicate balance between empathy and constructiveness, and the overall impact of feedback on growth.

Characteristics of good feedback

It should be clear and concise

Feedback should get straight to the point.

When delivering feedback, it's important to be straightforward. Overly wordy feedback can dilute the message, confusing your direct report about what needs improvement.

For example, saying, "Your report was somewhat okay, but it could benefit from a few adjustments here and there in the sections where you discuss the market analysis; it would be helpful to add more details, maybe some statistics or charts, to make your points more compelling,"

In contrast, clear, concise feedback would be, "Your report needs more detailed market analysis with supporting statistics."

Concise communication ensures that the recipient understands your core points without any ambiguity.

Make feedback actionable

Actionable feedback helps your employees grasp your intended message and understand how to apply it.

Instead of saying, "Your presentations need work," you could offer more constructive feedback, such as, "In your last presentation, you spoke too quickly, making it hard for the audience to follow. Try pacing yourself and pausing for questions."

Vague statements like "You need to improve your work" are unhelpful. Specific, actionable feedback provides clear direction.

For instance, "Your last report lacked detailed data analysis; try including more charts and data points next time" is both precise and beneficial.

Specific examples bridge the gap between abstract concepts and tangible actions, making implementing changes easier for the recipient.

It's bias-free

Remember to provide bias-free feedback to encourage a fair and inclusive work environment.

Focus on specific behaviors and outcomes rather than personal characteristics or biases. Avoid language that could reflect stereotypes or personal judgments.

Effective feedback should focus on specific behaviors or actions, not the individual's personality. This ensures that the feedback is objective and actionable.

Instead of saying, "You're not a good team player," you could try, "During the last project, there were instances where your participation in team discussions was limited. Let's work on being more actively involved."

Balance empathy with constructiveness

Overly vague feedback, driven by the desire to be nice or based on an employee's high performance, can be as unhelpful as harsh criticism because the person receiving it needs to understand what actions you'd like them to take.

This approach can lead to misunderstandings and missed opportunities for improvement. Instead, aim for feedback that is clear, specific, and actionable.

The goal is to provide honest yet supportive feedback, encouraging growth without demoralizing the recipient.

Here's an example:

Instead of saying, "I think that in future meetings you might want to consider maybe starting a bit earlier because sometimes we don't have enough time to cover all the topics on the agenda, and that leads to us rushing through the important points," try, "Start future meetings earlier to cover all agenda topics.

Encourage growth

Performance feedback should always aim to encourage growth. It should highlight areas for improvement while acknowledging the recipient's efforts and achievements.

This balanced approach fosters a positive environment where individuals feel motivated to improve. The quality of feedback matters more than the quantity.

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Consider the words of Laura Sehres, Textio Lift user and Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, "A lot of times we address the quantity of feedback, how often somebody is getting feedback. But if the feedback isn't good, if it's not the quality, you're still not getting the performance you want."

Feedback provides the necessary insights for individuals to understand their strengths and areas for improvement, leading to better performance.

Organizational growth

Effective feedback helps individuals align their efforts with organizational goals, driving overall growth and success.

Plus, organizations that prioritize a feedback culture see higher employee engagement and productivity levels. In fact, Textio's research shows that individuals who receive low-quality feedback are 63% more likely to leave their organizations than their counterparts.

A culture of feedback fosters open communication, collaboration, and continuous improvement. It creates an environment where employees feel valued and empowered to contribute their best.

Organizations prioritizing feedback are better equipped to adapt to changes, innovate, and maintain a competitive edge.

Remember, the essentials are balancing empathy with constructiveness, using specific examples, and focusing on behavior rather than personality.

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