Most managers do prepare their feedback meetings but the way in which those meetings are prepared does not encourage feedback reception.

How to give feedback the right way

Giving (and receiving) feedback is one of the most common practices in business. Yet, most managers struggle with it. I’ve seen (and done) many mistakes during feedback meetings and I want to share with you my tips to avoid those mistakes, while also presenting a framework to have consistently good feedback meetings.

Keep it positive

Giving feedback should be a positive experience. You are doing it because you want the other person to grow and to feel more comfortable working with them. Be sure to tell this to your reportee to set a nice mood for your meetings.

Organize your feedback

It’s important that you separate your feedback into categories. What has your reportee done right, what can they improve over time and what needs to change drastically and soon.

Once you have the feedback into those categories, take a look at the whole picture. It may be the case that you have a lot of feedback to give to this person. It can happen. Maybe you thought they understood what you asked and they didn’t, or that they had a specific skill that wasn’t really in their toolbelt. If this happens, limit your feedback to the most critical. Throwing someone a pile of feedback in just one meeting can be detrimental to their improvement.

Let’s say you give six different pieces of feedback to one of your reportees. From those five, two are really important and four are just minor improvements. There’s a great chance that your reportee will take them as six equally important things, even if you explicitly say that some of them are not as important as the others.

They might even have a reasonable explanation for some of the feedback. Maybe after the conversation continues there are only three things on the table, the two important ones and one minor. From your reportee’s point of view, you’ve settled on half of the things, but in reality you still have the two biggest and juiciest feedback pieces unaddressed.

By only bringing the most important feedback to the table, you avoid derailing the conversation into minor details. You make sure that your reportee understands what needs to change or keep up doing, and you can focus your solutions on that.

Be objective

Use observations, not your judgment. Talk about the things that happened and not how you interpret those things.

For example, instead of saying “The presentation wasn’t professional” try saying something like “The presentation had typos in the slides 4, 8, and 13. It also had some charts that weren’t visible on presentation mode, like in slides 7 and 21”. What “being professional” means to someone may mean something different to another person.

If you are struggling with this, make sure to check our post on the difference between observations and judgments.

Explain the importance

Going along with our presentation example, you could add: “Those mistakes may make our potential clients think we are sloppy or unprofessional”.

Explaining why something needs to change (or stay) is a critical part of feedback giving. Most of the time, your reportee may have not deemed it as important as you.

Ask for a specific action

Whether you want your reportee to keep up the good work or to step up to the challenge, you need to tell them exactly what you expect.

It may be as simple as saying “Next time, check with the autocorrect for typos. You can also make the presentation to me the day prior to our meeting with the customers so we can both spot mistakes simulating the real meeting situation”.

Asking exactly what you expect from them is critical, as it is a look to the future and an opportunity to do a better job.

Hear your reportee’s thoughts

Once you’ve presented the feedback to your reportee, ask them their thoughts. Do they agree with the importance of the feedback? Do they think the actions asked are doable?

After discussing the feedback there should be a common ground on how the situation could have been resolved. Both you and your reportee should have a shared mindset on the topic. This will make you more aligned with each other and prevent the same feedback from coming up in the future.

Test your reportee’s growth in the next available opportunity

There probably will be a situation when you can put the feedback to test soon enough. Try to set a date where you can see the progress in action. Ask your reportee to make a commitment.

Maybe you have another presentation next Friday and your reportee can put in practice all the feedback you’ve just given him. After that presentation is over, stay with them to discuss if all feedback was implemented.

Be sure to explicitly tell your reportee if they’ve improved. There are fewer things more frustrating than implementing feedback from your manager and never hear them say a word about it.