The Smart Approach to Providing Employee Feedback

Jim Dawson Comments
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It can be hard to develop this skill as few organizations foster a non-judgmental atmosphere and people are scared they will be punished if they are honest about what they’ve done. As owner, you have to earn the right to be trusted based on how you handle errors and mistakes. Modeling trustworthy behavior takes time. You must be serious about this commitment, and should never punish someone for an original mistake. This creates fear and an inhibition against trying new things.

Wherever possible, encourage people to apply their creativity. If you can, let them test their ideas in a safe environment that won’t directly affect the business.

Learning to give successful, immediate feedback is a process. In time, people will welcome your feedback because they trust your intent and your desire to help them improve.

Communicating Expectations

When employees fail, it’s usually because they don’t understand what is expected of them. Clear expectations should be set when employees first come to work, and employees should be held accountable. Managers are expected to have certain skills in place, and expectations can be increased over time. At all levels, expectations should be identified and agreed to by both parties.

Suspending Judgment

When there is a problem, be a detective. An assertion is not proof or evidence and you may not have the story right. Before you make a decision, ask questions to help you understand the contributing factors of a situation and be open to other points of view. Accept that people can do the wrong things for all the right reasons. Sometimes mistakes happen because someone is trying to improve the process; it just didn’t work out.

Handling Conflict

Conflict is inevitable. If handled appropriately, conflict can lead to greater understanding and new ideas. Ask questions and listen for the cause of the disagreement. Let those involved speak their minds, and never invalidate their opinions or emotions. When the problem is defined you can lead the conversation toward a resolution.

Most important, feedback should be:

Specific. Base your conversation on the behavior you are addressing, what took place and what is expected. It should never be about liking or disliking the person, or finding fault or blame. It should be about identifying the problem and having corrective action identified and understood.

Descriptive. Use clear, descriptive language and, if possible, demonstrate what you are looking for. Then check for understanding by having the employee mimic what you did.

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