8 ways to give better feedback

Giving feedback is a critical job responsibility of any manager, but it can be a scary proposition for many people. Madeleine Blanchard, co-founder of Coaching Services at The Ken Blanchard Companies says that with a little bit of practice using a coaching style approach it will get less uncomfortable. Remember that as a manager you earn the right to give feedback by building trust and respect. Here are eight ways to give better feedback:


  1. Before giving feedback, be sure that there were clear agreements about goals, norms, roles, and expectations established.  
  2. Make sure that the relationship has sufficient trust. Ask for permission to give feedback, or at least prepare the direct report if you need to share something that might be delicate or hard to hear. 
  3. Use a neutral demeanor to eliminate blame and judgment. Be aware of your nonverbal communication and tone. Practice using neutral language if this is a challenge.  
  4. Be timely and give feedback immediately or as quickly as possible, but not in the heat of the moment. If you cannot control your emotions, wait until you can before giving feedback. 
  5. Be relevant. Feedback needs to be focused on moving forward, not about something in past that will never happen again. Giving feedback about past events which are unlikely to recur serves no purpose and can damage trust.  
  6. Focus on behaviors that are within the employee’s control. Beating people up for things outside of their control is unreasonable. 
  7. Be specific and descriptive. Describe the behaviors or data rather than giving generalizations. Do not drag in third-party observations and do not give into demands for “what other people think.” Remember you are the manager, and what matters is what you think. 
  8. Be open and ready for a variety of outcomes. If you are just giving feedback to be helpful, don’t expect gratitude or enthusiasm. If there is a request, hopefully, the feedback will be received and acted upon. If so, pay attention to efforts and be ready to endorse and praise. If there is a demand and/or requirement that needs to be acted upon, be ready to work with the person to ensure compliance. Be ready to discuss structure (when and how they will do what is needed), accountability (how you and others will know they are on track) and support (how you and others can help). Finally, be ready to follow up with consequences for failure.

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