Did you know that nearly 70% of managers are uncomfortable giving employee feedback? At a rate that high, it’s unlikely that a majority of employees worldwide are getting the information they need to do a great job. While so many people feel uncomfortable giving feedback, it doesn’t have to be that scary. In fact, we have a great framework that will make feedback much more impactful while reducing the stress of giving it in the first place.
It’s crucial for the success of your company that team members hear what they’re doing well, and where they can improve. Positive feedback reinforces the behaviors you want to see as well as sets expectations for what success looks like. The same goes for critical feedback, which helps us identify behaviors and strategies that shouldn’t be repeated so we can avoid them next time.
The way we provide feedback at Kin hinges on three things: the situation, the behavior and the impact. Every piece of feedback you give, whether positive or negative, should have all three components addressed.
The formula is not our own, but from the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott. If you haven’t read it, it’s easily one of the most influential books we’ve read on providing feedback.
Here are two examples of positive and negative feedback and why they work. This will give you the framework to model your own feedback on so that you can effectively communicate your thoughts with team members moving forward.
Let’s start with a positive example:
Situation: Hey Sara, you did such a great job responding to the client’s concerns this morning on our call!
Behavior: I loved how calm and understanding you were even with their toughest questions.
Impact: Your demeanor definitely gave them a lot of confidence in our ability to do the work, even with the going gets tough on this project.
In this example, you’re directly relating the praise you give Sara to a situation that happened where she can recall her actions. Just like we appreciate feedback from clients being specific so we can zero in on what they’re addressing, we thrive when our managers can do the same for us as employees.
Next, zeroing in on the behavior you want to see replicated is key. Naming emotions and actions in this component help give people the understanding of what you truly mean, versus being unintentionally vague with high-level context.
Last, and this is especially true during positive feedback, providing how you felt, or how someone in the group felt when it came to the value added by their behavior is key. All too often, we go on without being told how we are valuable to an organization, even when we are given positive feedback. By remembering to name it during the impact component of feedback, you’re ensuring your team hears it. Connect the dots for employees, don’t assume they just know.
Now, let’s tackle a negative feedback example. Before we dive in, we want to address that yes, providing negative feedback can make people understandably nervous. While we can’t control how someone else will respond to what we say, we absolutely can control how we deliver the message which ultimately triggers their response.
Let’s examine one way to give negative feedback using our model from Radical Candor from above:
Situation: Can I be radically candid about the presentations you’ve turned in over the last 90 days?
Behavior: I’ve noticed that you’ve had a lot of typos, incomplete sentences and trailing ideas in them.
Impact: Since assets like these presentations directly impact how we sell to clients, I’m concerned that we won’t hit our sales targets if we don’t have the quality assets we need to deliver to prospective clients.
We’re not done just yet. Once we’ve said what we need to say, we need to enter the next step for critical feedback, which is called the exploration phase. This is where you as the feedback giver are taking responsibility for not only giving feedback, but helping the individual do better work. Remember, if we are only there to give feedback and not help realign an employee to do their best work, we don’t deserve to give feedback in the first place.
You can ask something along the lines of, “What information could I provide that would enable you to better create these presentations?” or “What if I were to provide an outline for what I want to see in the presentations? This could give you a better guideline for how to complete them versus starting from scratch, would that be helpful?”
The more ideas you can bring to the table to explore resolutions to pain points, the better.
Now that you’ve said what you’ve had to say, it’s your turn to actively listen to your team mate. Remember, the focus on any feedback, whether positive or negative, is to have a conversation that helps the employee do a better job in the future. Be open to hearing what they have to say and empathetic to their situation.
Once you’ve had your discussion and feel like you have heard each other out, you may want to wrap it up by asking questions to ensure that your points have been heard and understood, just as theirs have. You can ask questions like, “What’s your biggest takeaway from this meeting?” or “Do you think that this feedback helps align you with your objectives for the year?”
Questions like this will allow you to feel out the conversation a bit more before you leave, and ensure that they have the direction they need to be successful in the future.
Last but not least, you must document your discussion – both positive and negative. Conversations are great, but oftentimes, especially during critical feedback, an employee may be uncomfortable and not fully retain what was said. By documenting the discussion in a place where both you and your team member can refer to, you’ll ensure that nothing was lost from the session and you’re both on the same page.