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  • Matt Brown

How to give effective feedback

Giving meaningful feedback is an essential skill for any manager. In this blog post we give you tips on how to give effective feedback to either redirect or reinforce behaviour.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve”

Bill Gates

One of the most important skills for any manager is the ability to give meaningful and constructive feedback. People will never meet their potential if they don’t know how they are doing.

If you are a parent, you give your children feedback in two different scenarios:

· Reinforcement

· Redirection

and the workplace is no different. We give reinforcement feedback when someone does ‘something right’ to get them to repeat the behaviour, and we give redirection feedback when someone makes a mistake (I guarantee they didn’t do it on purpose) so that they learn from it and don’t repeat it.

Now let’s look at this in a little more detail. Before giving any feedback, you should ask yourself a simple question:

“Why am I telling them this?”

and if you are not able to answer that question then you shouldn’t be telling them, as you are not doing it to achieve a positive outcome. If you have been able to answer this then you should give feedback as soon as is practical after the event, but there are some golden rules to follow!

  • Feedback is always single issue, this tells the individual that you have no issues with any other aspect of their performance

  • If you are giving redirection feedback, never give it in anger

  • Always consider the part that you play in the situation (have you perhaps given them a task that they were not trained to do?)

  • Always be specific and focus on behaviour and consequences, not opinion. This is particularly relevant when giving reinforcement feedback. It’s very easy to just say ‘well done’ or ‘thank you’ and while that will have a positive impact on the recipient it will be more effective if you say what it is that they have done well, or you are thanking them for.

It is very easy to focus only on what is not being done, but this is a sign of bad leadership and will inevitably lead to a disengaged, inefficient and demoralised team. Make the effort to ‘catch people doing something right’ and acknowledge it – it is important to note that by ‘catch people doing something right’ I mean going above and beyond their day job, you don’t need to thank people for just doing what they are paid for.

Task or Behaviour?

I have been training managers in the area of Performance Management for nearly 20 years and when asked the question ‘would you rather give redirection feedback in relation to task or behaviour’ a clear majority have always selected task. It is easy to understand this as many people feel that if they are discussing behaviour then they are ‘attacking’ the personality of the employee, and understandably want to avoid the inevitable conflict this will cause.

However, as mentioned above: “be specific and focus on behaviour”, in other words it is ‘when you said xxxx it was inappropriate because…’ not ‘you are a really rude person’!

The AID Model

A simple mnemonic to use to structure the feedback is AID, and this works for both Task and Behaviour and redirecting or reinforcing:

A Action

I Impact

D Do

Action looks at what they did, which enables you to be specific, and it should be noted that inaction is an action.

Impact looks at what happened as a result of the action (or inaction). If someone understands the consequence of what they do they are more likely to want to change their behaviour (or repeat it if you are giving reinforcement), as opposed to just telling them “don’t do it again”.

Do looks at how they should behave in future. Once again be specific and also include the support/training you will provide if appropriate.

Using AID enables you to give meaningful and constructive feedback.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions” Ken Blanchard

The effective manager invests time in their people, managing each of them slightly differently (but within the same framework) to enable them to meet their potential. People come to work to do the job to the best of their ability, as a leader you have a crucial role to play in enabling them to do this.

More on this subject is included in Develop Your People’s ‘Performance Management’ course.

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