how to give constructive feedback

How to give constructive feedback to your team

Throughout your work life, there are going to be times (many, many times) when you’ll need to give some constructive feedback. And while most of us don’t enjoy giving negative feedback, it’s something that goes hand in hand with working in a team.

Whether you’ve noticed a minor concern like a couple of typos in a document, or more serious concerns around processes and practices not being followed, you’re going to need to give constructive feedback if the work is to be delivered according to expectations.

Throughout your work-life, there are going to be times (many, many times) when you’ll need to give some constructive feedback. And while most of us don’t enjoy giving negative feedback, it’s something that goes hand in hand with working in a team.

Whether you’ve noticed a minor concern like a couple of typos in a document, or more serious concerns around processes and practices not being followed, you’re going to need to give constructive feedback if the work is to be delivered according to expectations.

I’ve often heard managers and leaders talk about how someone on their team, “just can’t take constructive feedback”.

JackNicholson

 

And while that iconic line from A Few Good Men still has its place in memes and dramatic monologue re-enactments, it doesn’t make sense in the workplace.

Receiving constructive (negative) feedback can be challenging, however, it’s often the delivery of that ‘constructive feedback’ that triggers an escalation of emotions that feels very personal to the receiver.

Read on to learn how to give constructive feedback to your team in a way that depersonalises the situation.

 

5 tips for giving constructive feedback to your team

 

#1: Get clear on your tough stuff.

What are the tough conversations for you? Getting clear on what you personally find challenging in a tough conversation will help raise your awareness of your own behaviours during these conversations, especially if you have been avoiding them. Once you are clear on your own behaviours, you can then be more planned in your approach to facilitating tough conversations with a positive outcome.

 

#2: Choose your environment carefully.

If constructive feedback is on the agenda for the week, it’s worthwhile planning ahead and choosing a location that provides safety and confidentiality for the person receiving the feedback. Crowded staff rooms or standing around water coolers in hallways are NOT safe spaces to have tough conversations.

 

#3: Be mindful of your language.

Strength-based practices emerged about a decade ago, emphasising discovering, affirming and enhancing a person’s strengths and skills. Using strength-based language when giving feedback will support your desire to see a good outcome from a tough conversation.

Imagine a manager meeting with Bob, and stating, “Bob, I would like you to work on not being so stubborn or obstinate in our meetings”. A short sharp response from Bob may be the only outcome from that conversation.

Let’s try that again, “Bob, I appreciate your strong determination and commitment to the company. It has served us well in the past. I have noticed in our meetings that not everyone has your level of determination and they are hesitating to contribute in our meetings. We need to hear everyone’s thoughts and create an opportunity for that to happen. Can I ask you to encourage others to speak up at our meetings and to also take the time to consider their suggestions?”

Turning Bob’s ‘deficits’ into strengths and stating the behaviours you would like to see from Bob is a good starting point for moving forward more positively.

 

#4: Make use of non-verbal communication.

Non-verbal communication impacts how messages are sent and received. Developing our non-verbal communication skills complements a strengths approach to tough conversations.

Michael Grinder is a world-renowned specialist in the arena of non-verbal communication. His toolkit of effective non-verbal communication techniques is abundant, but, for the focus of this article, his three-point communication technique will go a long way in depersonalising a tough conversation you may need to have.

Three-point communication is a strategy that helps us to talk about ‘the problem’ as the item you’re giving feedback on, instead of (unintentionally) insinuating that the person is the problem.

Directing the conversation and eye contact towards a third point, like a report or print-out helps to de-personalise the content of the conversation.

 

Watch this video of Michael Grinder demonstrating this strategy: 

 

 

#5: Remember, we’re all human.

Lastly, remember that we are in the business of humans. We are not robots with pre-programmed responses and behaviours free of emotion. Be kind to others and to yourself. No one said that just because your position description says ‘Manager’ or ‘Team Leader’ that you would also be perfect at dealing with the tough convos. The great news is there is always room for personal growth.

Mastering the tough convos across all levels of leadership reaps benefits for all concerned. When constructive feedback is done well, it results in an increase in productivity and functionality, staff retention, morale, and clarity of roles and responsibilities.

 

If you enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with a fellow manager– we’ve all got to give constructive feedback, so why not pass these tips on to help someone out?