If you want to see the effect of feedback, look at a child. Imagine the excited four-year-old who runs to her father to show off her most recent artistic achievement.
If you speak harshly, discussing the need to color within the lines and use the correct colors, you will see a child’s smile fade, enthusiasm will wane, and she will not be as likely to come running to show off her work in the future.
If, however, you tell her what a beautiful picture she has made and show her how if she colors slowly she can stay in the lines you will see a smile broaden as she runs off to create an even more beautiful masterpiece for her father.
Feedback with employees has the same effect; it will either build an employee up or decimate their spirit.
All feedback should be constructive. It should be done in such a way that the employee is motivated to improve performance or continue to do excellent work.
Paul emphasized this point in Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbor for his good, to build him up.”
Here are eight guidelines to help you develop and use your feedback skills more effectively:
1) Use Common Definitions and Simple Language
Make sure that you are using common definitions. Even the simplest words in our vocabulary have multiple meanings.
The more complicated your vocabulary, the more likely misunderstandings will occur. Be specific, be concise, and use simple terms to increase the effectiveness of your communication.
2) Avoid the Use of Garbage Words and Slang
Use of garbage words can add confusion to a conversation. Words like “hmm,” “uh-huh,” and grunts and groans convey different meanings depending on your tone of voice, your facial expressions, and your body language.
3) Be Observant
People usually use a fairly consistent set of verbal and non-verbal cues. I had one boss who was so tuned in to me that he could see the wheels turning in my head, and knew when I didn’t agree or when I had an idea. He said he could tell when I was thinking something over by my facial expressions, and when I had something to say because my posture changed. He was rarely wrong.
4) Behavior Versus the Person
The purpose of feedback is to improve employee productivity. Feedback for behavior that needs correction should be focused on the behavior, not the individual.
Jesus gives us an excellent example of providing feedback for the behavior rather than the individual in Matthew 26. The Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus when Peter boldly stepped forward and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).”
5) Feedback Timing
Feedback to reinforce or correct employee behavior is best when given as soon as possible.
Luke 19 provides an example of prompt feedback. The day after Jesus re-entered Jerusalem he went to the temple and found men selling. He did not put the matter on the agenda for the next disciples meeting. He immediately overturned the money changers tables and drove them out of the temple. As they departed, he said, “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a ‘den of robbers’ (Luke 19:46).”
6) Spoken Versus Written
If the feedback you are giving is corrective, it should be verbal and in private. To make sure that future expectations of performance are very clear you should follow-up in writing.
Verbal praise for a job well done is nice, but the feeling usually fades after a few days. Written praise is more concrete, and it gives you the opportunity to publicize the employees’ success. Copy the written praise to the peer group and upper management. There’s nothing quite like getting a personal note from a senior manager who expresses appreciation for good work as a motivational tool.
7) Don’t Assume Understanding
Do you remember the phrase, “I know you think you understand what I said, but I’m not so sure that what you heard I what I meant?” People often nod agreement or say “I know exactly how you feel,” without really knowing how the other person feels, what frame of reference they’re coming from, etc.
Use your communications skills to ensure that what you think you heard is what the other person meant to say! At any point in a conversation asking questions is the best way to make sure that you heard correctly.
Contrary to popular belief flattery will not get you everywhere. People quickly see through insincere remarks. Always provide feedback that is sincere. Praise earned for hard work will always motivate more than the hollow flattery of praise for work that the employee knows is not up to standard.
One Final Thought
Feedback is like a powerful sports car, it is a pleasure to drive, but in the hands of a drunk, it is a lethal weapon.
Before you fire off that next missile chastising an employee, before you bring him or her into your office for a thorough tongue lashing, remember the purpose of feedback is to motivate the employee to improve performance. Employees will want to learn how to do a better job and will be motivated to do better if the feedback they receive from you is always timely, balanced, and constructive.
This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, “Motivate with Feedback—Build Your Business by Building Up Your Employees.”
This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of using feedback to motivate and build up your employees:
- A definition of feedback appropriate for the business environment,
- Types of feedback, and
- Feedback as a motivational tool.
You can download the whitepaper here: “Motivate with Feedback—Build Your Business by Building Up Your Employees.”
Join the Conversation
As always questions and comments are welcome. What kinds of feedback have you received? Have there been times when you received feedback that was motivating or disheartening?
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Category: Skills| Management of Human Resources