The giving of feedback is probably one of the most vital skills in management. But your team need to know how they are doing.
According to Ken Blanchard …
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions”
People need to know how they are doing in order to know what to keep doing and what needs improving, and how. For many employees it is a case of ‘No new is good news’, as they only get to hear if things go wrong. And when they’ve been learning something new or a different way of doing things – for example customer service training – they need feedback to help hone and develop their new skills.
Giving feedback is not only key for improving and perfecting performance, but – done in a supportive way – is highly motivational. Let’s face it; if you were doing something that constituted poor performance, was annoying, or let others down wouldn’t you like to know?
And equally if you were doing something really well, that made a difference to others and to the business, wouldn’t you like to know it was recognised?
Giving feedback starts with the impromptu “thank you, well done” but that on its own doesn’t tell people enough to sustain or improve performance. To be effective feedback must let people know what specifically was good or bad, what difference it made and how it can be built upon or improved.
Using SAID when giving feedback
One way to do this is by using a very simple model: S A I D
When giving feedback, particularly on poor performance, it’s useful to know what you are bench-marking this against. If people don’t know what is expected of them, it is very easy to get defensive. So establish the standards you expect and communicate these.
You may not always need to refer to these during the feedback process, but be mindful of these as you give the feedback.
What is the action they performed? Emphasis is on their actions, not on your interpretation of it. So you are feeding back what you observed or heard, not on their intentions, their personality or their character.
Limit the number of actions you comment on a level they can handle – far better to give feedback on one key action that they can digest and build on to make a difference, than ten things which leaves the message diluted (and invariably leaves them demotivated).
Because this is based on fact it is less likely to be challenged. Link back to the standard if necessary to highlight where people have exceeded or fallen short.
What impact did their actions have on the result? This can include positive or negative impact on the end result, or on the process itself e.g. the amount of effort needed on their part to achieve the result, or the impact on others, etc.
When giving praise it is so easy to say to someone ‘that was really good, well done’ without saying why it was good or what made the difference this time compared with previous occasions.
How can they build on this for the future? Remember, the purpose of feedback is to enhance performance and motivate.
So this last stage is important to determine what happens next e.g. develop to make it even better next time around, to correct a mistake or to perfect a process. Put the emphasis on what is missing rather than what is wrong – building on strengths or positives is far more likely to engender enthusiasm.
Using open questions, ask the individual how they think things can be developed or built upon. This will help to gain buy in and you may be surprised by the options they suggest.
Here are the three key situations for giving feedback within the workplace.
- When all is going well – feedback and praise.
- Mixed performance – feedback mixed with positive and corrective action.
- When all is not well – feedback to address under-performance.
This model works equally well in all three.
You may recall something referred to as ‘The Praise Sandwich.’ The problems with the praise sandwich are that, in fact, it is a bad news sandwich, and usually the ‘filling’ (i.e. the bad news) is so thin and the ‘bread’ or praise element so thick and fluffy, that the key message gets completely lost. The result? The person remembers the first and last part of the discussion – the praise – and not the part you want to change. The end result is that nothing changes.
This is not to say you don’t give something positive at the start of the discussion. This helps to build rapport and makes the recipient of the feedback more receptive. Using the SAID model people know exactly what the issue is.
But by understanding the impact it has had, and having been given an opportunity to put forward their own ideas to avoid it in future, they will still come out of it with some dignity, and you are far more likely to see something change for the better.
Feedback is most effective when it is given as soon after the event as you can. But sometimes you may be better off delaying until the end of the shift or day. Take into account whether the timing is appropriate for the individual to take on it board (e.g. avoid times when they are under tight time pressures, or about to start something for which they need total focus).
Consider your mood, e.g. if you are annoyed at seeing poor performance do you need time to cool off. Do you need to wait until you can take them away from their workplace for privacy; as a general rule praise in public, reprimand in private.
Identify your motives before giving feedback i.e. what do you want the end result to be? Be prepared for their reaction, and how you will respond. But be direct, don’t sugar coat the message so it gets lost.
Give praise where it is due, but when it’s not, make it clear that you need to see improvements or changes Preserve the other person’s self esteem by delivering bad news in a non-critical way, and concentrate on your pitch and tone so that valuable information is not seen as a complaint, criticism, whinge or nag.
Given in a constructive way feedback can not only improve performance but can raise morale, build rapport and promote initiative. It also opens the door for your team to provide you with some feedback too.