Providing Feedback Effectively Can Help Your Team Members Grow

by on Feb 3, 2016 2:21 PM

No one likes to hear what they’re doing wrong.  And, as leaders, we often don’t want to tell employees ‘bad news’ about their progress or attitude.  Yet it is essential that we give open and honest feedback to help our people grow.

A very effective approach is to offer ‘redirecting feedback,’ which seeks to change, or redirect, the recipient’s undesired behavior.  If delivered well, redirecting feedback can be a positive and empowering experience for both the giver and receiver.

Here are seven tried-and-true steps to giving effective redirecting feedback:

Step 1: Give a clear descriptive feedback statement

Make sure the person understands precisely what behavior is unacceptable. This is the first step toward change.

Example: “I have noticed that your commitment to fine-tuning graphic concepts has led to us missing customer deadlines.”

Step 2: Ask why the person acted in the way he or she did

It doesn’t matter whether or not a person’s reasons are ‘acceptable.’ The important thing is to learn how he or she thinks and make decisions, and to open the door to a two-way dialogue. When we listen to the other person, that person is more inclined to listen to us.

Example: “Can you tell me a little about why you handled the situation the way you did?”

Step 3: Indicate the effect or impact of the behavior on the organization

Tell the person what effect his or her behavior has had on the organization. Be specific, and make sure your colleague understands his actions have serious consequences.

Example: “I understand and appreciate your desire for excellence; however, this first stage is meant to present the client with general ideas only, not finished products. Do you mind if I share with you the ramifications of missing these deadlines? We recently lost a client because we didn’t deliver the required number of concepts on schedule.”

Step 4: Collaboratively seek a solution

Note this does not mean you should propose a solution. We want the employee to come up with her own solution, thereby giving her a sense of ownership.

Example: “What do you think can be done to help you speed up your concept development process?”

Don’t worry if the solution isn’t what exactly you have in mind, if the solution will achieve a good result, go with the solution the team member proposes. If you have concerns about the solution, explain them in a positive manner:

Example: “If we do as you’ve suggested, I’m concerned this result might happen. How do you think we might get around that?”

Step 5: Develop an action plan

An action plan lays out what your employee will do and when he or she will do it.  It may also include commitments you will make to support your team member.  A note of caution: be careful not to take on more responsibility than you should own.  In the end, the onus is on the employee to follow through with the plan. You are there to guide.

Example: “To review our discussion, now that we’ve determined how to proceed, you will take the following actions, and I will take the following actions.”

Step 6: Agree on a follow-up procedure

Once your team member develops the action plan, you must agree on a follow-up procedure.  As with the previous five steps, be specific on how and when the follow-up will occur.  Note that vague statements such as “Let’s talk about it down the road” will lead the employee to think, “Nobody ever follows up around here.  I’ll never hear anything about this again.”  Agree on a specific follow-up plan and a time to meet to review progress.

Example: “Given the action plan we’ve created, I think we should see a substantial difference in two weeks.  Let’s get together two weeks from today at 10:00am to follow up.  The purpose will be to evaluate the solution’s effectiveness and determine how far we’ve come.”

Step 7: Encourage the employee

Once you have worked through the solution with an action plan, it’s time to say the good things! This positive note at the end of the conversation is what they’ll remember. Be genuine with encouragement.

Example: “I have every reason to believe, based on your strong background, that we will successfully work through this situation.”

Redirecting feedback is tough, even with a process to follow.  Anger, judgment, a desire to take punitive action, and anxiety are all common emotions leaders may feel when attempting to give redirecting feedback.  Do your best to squeeze those feelings out of your feedback discussion with your team member.

The good news is that giving feedback is a skill that can be developed and help make you a more effective leader. We’ve seen scores of leaders master feedback through practice and a careful analysis of prior feedback situations, with great results.