As a leader, delivering constructive feedback effectively during performance appraisals is key to team success. However, this doesn’t come naturally to all of us. Here’s a few tips you can try to help you deliver constructive feedback well and get the most of out your team. You can also download a handy checklist, using the form on this page.
Read time: 3½ minutes | Author: Geoff Fawcett - Director Hays UK
8 tips for delivering constructive feedback
1. Preparation is key
Preparation, as always, is key. Prior to your meeting, refresh yourself on the employee’s original objectives and evaluate their performance from there. During this preparation time, be sure to note down specific examples of good or bad performance to be discussed in the meeting.
2. Be transparent
Make the process totally transparent. Prior to the meeting, tell the employee what you hope to discuss in the review and what you aim to achieve from it. If using a form during the review, share this with the employee before meeting them. This will alleviate any tension they may be feeling, whilst also allowing them to prepare thoroughly.
It’s all about establishing an atmosphere of trust. If you are an effective leader then this should already be a key component of your relationship with your team. This trust will serve to reassure the employee that you’re giving them this feedback because you believe in their abilities and want them to improve, rather than just criticising them for any other personal reasons.
3. Let them do the talking
Encourage the employee to do most of the talking. This meeting shouldn’t feel like a one-sided interrogation, instead aspiring towards more of a collaborative, open review.
What’s gone well and what’s not gone so well? Start by asking the employee to talk through their objectives and any successes or challenges they have experienced. Encourage them to talk about what they have learnt or will do differently in the future; self-reflection is key.
4. Start with the positives
Start by providing examples of when you have been particularly impressed by the employees performance, including concrete examples. This will help to motivate the employee and put them at ease before you go on to discuss the negatives.
5. Be factual, not judgemental
Be both factual and honest, and not judgemental or overly critical. However, if there is a performance related issue, now is your time to air your concerns so don’t skirt around the issue.
When giving negative feedback, it’s important to provide specific examples and constructive pointers to help the employee understand the impact of their actions and ultimately improve e.g. “I thought that your content during the presentation last week was great, but I noticed your body language was slouched and the audience found it difficult to hear you. Why not try this next time/are you interested in a training course on developing your presentation skills?” When giving the example, give as much information as possible and avoid being vague, that way your feedback will be more credible and valuable. Always accompany some good feedback with the bad; the aim of the review is to inspire and motivate.
Think carefully about how you frame sentences when giving feedback, try phrases such as ‘I think that’, ‘I noticed that’. Focus on one issue at a time, focusing on too many will confuse things. Doing so allows the employee some time to digest the information and respond to what you’ve said. Always permit time for question in between your points of feedback.
6. You are there to support them
Throughout the performance review, make them understand that you believe in their abilities, you want them to get better and you are committed to helping them do so.
Reassure and support the employee further by asking whether they think they would benefit from more frequent one to one meetings or more training.
7. End on a high
It’s important that the employee walks away from the review feeling reinvigorated and inspired. You can achieve this by ending on a high. Reiterate the positives and ask the employee to share their ambitions and objectives with you for the coming months.
Make it clear that achievement of their goals is only the minimum expectation and that the employee should always be aiming higher. This helps to instil and retain an ambitious environment. Now is the time to set goals and look ahead to the future.
8. Performance reviews help to motivate your staff
Following the meeting, write the employee a simple, bullet-point email detailing their five most salient goals. Encourage them to routinely refer back to these goals, helping to retain team focus and motivation. Finally, set a date to review their progress.
Regular informal feedback on individual tasks and projects, supplemented by a formal review two or three times a year is a great way to guarantee team success and foster an environment of ambition and productivity.