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Mastering Feedback: A Manager's Essential Guide

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We've all heard the old saying that feedback is a gift too many times, but we don't talk enough about how managers give that gift to their teams. Will it be beautifully and thoughtfully packaged so that the gift can shine inside? Or will it just be thrown into a crumpled old paper bag or packed so tightly that it's difficult to find the contents?

While we can't give you instructions on gift wrapping, it's a helpful way to think about how you give feedback to your team. The content is the most important thing, but how you package that content also matters. This is even more true when feedback is constructive - leaders must learn to give feedback both effectively and kindly, which can be very challenging.

Whether you're a brand new manager or an experienced manager, everyone can use some tips on how to give feedback to an employee. These tips and strategies will help any leader give feedback that employees will truly listen to and act on.

3 tips for managers: Give feedback like a pro

1.Find the ideal frequency of feedback

First, consider how often you currently give feedback to your direct reports. If you only provide feedback during the annual performance review, you're not alone: half of employees only receive feedback annually or semi-annually.

However, this very rare feedback is not enough to improve employee performance and it is definitely not enough to increase engagement. You need to significantly increase the frequency of feedback to get the most benefit from it. Think: weekly instead of annually.

That may seem like a lot, but the data backs it up: According to Gallup research, a staggering 80% of employees who received meaningful feedback in the last week are fully engaged. This doesn't mean you have to give an hour of feedback every week - some weeks it might be a quick 15-minute conversation about how a meeting went, others a deeper, longer discussion of a big project.

Giving your employees more frequent feedback will help them get a more complete picture of their performance throughout the year, allowing them to make adjustments or develop new skills as needed.

But you as a manager also benefit from this: If you commit to giving feedback more often, you will get more practice at it. And through this practice, you will become more comfortable and confident in giving both negative and positive feedback.

2.Prepare in advance

Even though you really should give feedback frequently (and sometimes just a quick conversation), that doesn't mean you should be unprepared. Preparation is of course essential for negative feedback conversations, as these represent a greater emotional challenge for both parties.

But preparation is also important for positive conversations, because these also need to be well thought out and specific, especially when it comes to a larger project or skills that are crucial for the employee's future career path.

Good preparation means that you can think carefully and clearly about what you want to say in the interview. And this careful and clear feedback makes it more likely that your employee will be able to listen and act on the information.

Preparing for a weekly feedback meeting may seem like a big burden, but with a simple but effective framework, it's easier to manage. The Situation-Behavior-Impact framework is a favorite here at IceHrm. Here's how you can use it for your performance discussions.

1.Describe the situation‍

First, describe the time and place where the incident that deserves feedback occurred. By saying, "I noticed that in our all-hands meeting last week..." the employee knows exactly what you're talking about - nothing is more frustrating than vague feedback.

2.Record the behavior

Next, note the behavior you are providing feedback on. "You've talked about Tim a few times" or "Your presentation was full of great data points" shows exactly what behavior you're trying to stop or reinforce.

3.Explain the implications

To clarify why you're taking the time to talk about this situation, address the impact the behavior had on you, the team, a colleague, or the company as a whole.

"Talking about Tim disrupted the flow of the meeting for everyone and we had difficulty staying on task" or "The data you presented gave everyone new insights into the development of our annual goals, which had a positive impact on morale" are Impact statements that help the employee see the bigger picture.

Don’t be afraid of the follow-up

If you are providing difficult feedback on a serious issue and this behavior is out of character for the employee, it may also be insightful to follow up on the SBI conversation and explore the reasons for it. This conversation could uncover a problem or difficulty you didn't know about, or provide a fuller explanation for the employee's behavior, helping you both understand what's going on and develop a plan to address the problem with compassion to solve.

3.Have conversations that relate to the person and the big picture

Feedback, even constructive feedback, doesn't necessarily have to be something that pits you against your employees - it's a valuable opportunity to build stronger connections.

Your employees know that giving difficult feedback is difficult. So if you overcome that fear and give them the honest and authentic feedback they need to grow, they will feel more valued. People prefer corrective feedback quite strongly to positive feedback when it is delivered appropriately.

When you regularly give your employees the holistic feedback they need (and want), with empathy and clarity, you'll help them build their dream careers. And that makes them feel more connected to you thanks to your career coaching.

They can also take the opportunity to connect their performance to the company's larger goals, which will have a positive impact on employee engagement. Letting your employees know how their hard work contributes to your company's success ensures a satisfying and motivating work environment.

The conclusion

Whenever you feel a little hesitant about giving your employees feedback - positive, negative, or both - think about the most valuable feedback you've received in your career. There was probably a bit of vulnerability on both sides (which is often the case with good feedback), and it may have hurt at first if it was corrective, but it helped shape you into the manager, coach and leader you are. who you are today.

And now you have the opportunity to give this to your team members too - how exciting! These guidelines should help you give your employees feedback they'll be excited to unpack and use immediately.

Feedback is a gift that shapes careers. Use preparation, frameworks, and empathy to make it impactful. Elevate your team with IceHrm.

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