The best ways of providing feedback

This is an extremely broad topic, and, in addition to opinions, there are sure to be as many facts as there are people providing feedback. But let’s not let that bother us right now! In this article, I will focus on feedback in general and highlight some things that you should consider when giving feedback. This article only concerns feedback situations between a supervisor and an employee.

Please feel free to share the article in social media! You could also describe your own experiences. Let’s join our forces and share the best feedback practices to improve personnel well-being!

What does providing feedback mean?

In the corporate world, feedback is usually given when goals are not being met, the company’s guidelines or values are not being followed or customers are giving feedback. So, in general, feedback is connected with unpleasant situations. This is extremely unfortunate, and it happens because these situations are easy to recognize due to something unusual happening. As a result, many situations where feedback is being provided in customer service centres have a fairly negative undertone. Supervisors get a lot of practice recognizing negative situations, which makes giving feedback an unpleasant task that they may not want to do or will only do occasionally. However, feedback could be so much more!

How can you turn negative feedback into positive feedback?

To put it bluntly, you cannot. Facts remain facts. It is good to remember that in working life, nothing is personal! Because of this, it is a good idea to avoid taking things to an overly emotional level – but it is still crucially important to understand emotions. The feedback could be negative, positive, critical, praise for a success or anything between, but it is still feedback, which means that it will help the person develop! The way that feedback is presented to the employee is much more significant than the content. When you remind yourself that all feedback is for the good of the recipient and the company, there is no negative feedback.

Good feedback…

Is instant

You need to learn to provide feedback quickly regardless of its nature! This will ensure that all parties still remember the situation well and you can discuss it, instead of just stating “you did this and this, please do not do it again”. It is always a good idea to keep records of feedback discussions, for example using a coaching app or a dedicated –workbook. This allows you to return to previous conversations and to monitor progress together with the employee.

Is given in a discussion

Start the discussion by telling the employee what the topic is and asking his or her opinion on the situation. Does the employee remember the situation? What does the employee think could have been done differently? If the feedback is positive, how can the employee ensure future successes? Trying to get the employee to think about different ways of doing things in the future is a good goal. If the employee is unable to do this independently, asking questions is a good way to guide the conversation. If you do not have time to do it this way, you can present the feedback directly but kindly and arrange to meet the employee again at a later time so you can go over the matter in more detail, if necessary.

Is respectful and encourages participation

Mention some of the employee’s strengths or ask the employee what he or she thinks they are. Together, think of ways that the employee’s strengths can help him or her perform better. Positive things should always be highlighted when giving feedback because working life is often hectic and successes tend to get buried under everything else, which makes feelings of accomplishment rare. Thus, it is especially important for supervisors to highlight these as often as possible. It energizes the person and motivates them to improve their performance independently. I also recommend asking the employees for direct feedback on your own performance. This creates an atmosphere where no one has to be scared of giving feedback, and you get a chance to develop your own skills.

Is constructive and goal-oriented

When determining areas of improvement, work with the employee. Do not focus too much on the positive things, and definitely do not downplay the need for development. Be honest. Let people set their own deadlines for the implementation of the agreed changes. This usually strengthens their commitment to the goals. Record the agreed development goals in your coaching application or notebook and remember to create a follow-up schedule. You should not be too cautious when setting goals! People often have an amazing ability to handle all types of situations and improve their weaknesses as long as they are motivated, committed and playing to their strengths.

Remember to pay attention to successes!

As soon as you notice that an employee has made the agreed changes or achieved their goals, you need to thank them, reward them, show your appreciation – almost anything will do, as long as the employee knows that you have noted their good performance!

Take time to prepare and highlight the employee’s strengths

Make sure you have enough time to prepare before providing feedback and think about positive things that you can say about the employee. What strengths does the employee have that could prevent problematic situations in the future? You could look at their results: maybe there is something positive to say about handling time, for example? You could also look at the quality of their work. Which customer service skills has the person successfully applied within the past month? Maybe this person is extremely good at starting or ending the calls or has a good selling method, and so on.

These are always worth highlighting. In the renowned Finnish coaching book  Valmentava esimies – Onnistumista palvelevat positiot -kirjassa it is mentioned, among other things, that giving three times more positive feedback than negative feedback is a good rule of thumb. The amount of time you need for preparations depends on how much experience you have giving feedback and how quickly you can find the necessary data on the person’s performance. In time, you may become so good at giving feedback that you no longer need to prepare, instead guiding the employee with questions so they can discover their successes and areas of improvement themselves.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I would be super happy if you could share your own opinion on this matter in the social media. I wish you all many good experiences providing feedback!

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Ville Mikkonen

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