As a manager, giving and receiving feedback are both critical. Managers play an important role in fostering a productive, inclusive and engaging work culture. They are responsible for recruiting and retaining talent, engaging employees, developing their team, and setting performance goals. “To be really great at feedback, you have to get it, give it, and encourage it. All of those things feel weird to do at first, but there are some easy things you can do to make them feel much more natural.”
–Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor
Unfortunately, management does not come naturally for most. Gallup research suggests that only one in 10 people possess the natural talent to be a great manager and another two in 10 can become effective managers with coaching and development. Often people get promoted to manager because they have worked at a company for many years, or they were successful as an independent contributor, such as a salesperson, and then promoted. Since new jobs typically require a different set of skills, managers need to learn new tools.
This post will focus on giving feedback to help your team know you care. Giving effective feedback is a wonderful tool to engage and develop your team for greater success. These three tips will help you reach that goal.
1. Make feedback part of your culture rather than an infrequent, big event.
Feedback can be very effective when given in small doses on a continuous basis, such as on a weekly basis after a call, meeting, or presentation. Too often, giving feedback becomes a big and stressful event, taking the form of a scheduled review mid-year or at the end of the year. Yes, formal reviews are important, but employees need more frequent one-on-one time to know you care. Managers can create a culture where feedback is used as a positive mechanism to make people aware of what’s working and what’s not, and to gently adjust behaviors as needed. It makes no sense to wait six months to let someone know they did something well or that they need to focus on a specific area. We need to shift the perception that feedback is a negative event to one that is a normal and frequent part of growth.
2. Share feedback through a strengths lens.
“A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all.”
–Peter Drucker, management theorist
Gallup’s research shows that people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. Managers can increase engagement and productivity simply by focusing on strengths, as opposed to pointing out weaknesses or ignoring employees. Often, our greatest strengths can be misinterpreted and used ineffectively. Instead of letting someone know they are impatient, shift the focus and help them see how their natural strength to take action and be a catalyst for the team is very valuable, except when they forge ahead without pausing to consider the key issues and gain buy-in. Then the conversation becomes about the strategies a manager can use to help the employee take action in the most powerful ways instead of how they can become more patient, which will never happen. One note on weaknesses: If the weakness gets in the way of success, then, yes, it needs to be addressed. Otherwise, investing time into further developing strengths instead will lead to better outcomes. Empower people by helping them see their strengths and how those traits can work for or against them.
3. Be specific and highlight excellence.
Too many managers are vague in their feedback or use feedback to only highlight weaknesses. Direct reports will be much more receptive to feedback if you can be specific and help them understand how they deliver excellence. This approach will help them identify which behaviors to repeat and how they add value.
When possible, try these small shifts in giving feedback about strengths:
- Shift from saying “Great job in the meeting” to “Great job finding areas of agreement and bringing the group together to help us have a productive meeting.”
- Shift from saying ”Thanks for pulling together the analyses” to “Thanks for pulling together the analyses and highlighting the key pieces of data that helped us decide to move forward with the deal.”
Giving frequent, specific, and strengths-based feedback can be an effective resource for managers seeking to build a more engaged and productive team.
Alissa Finerman is an Executive Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. She works with mangers, leaders, entrepreneurs and teams to help them elevate their performance and collaborate more effectively. She has an MBA from the Wharton School.