1. Look into past data
Once there’s a topic you’d like to share feedback on, evaluate if this is something you’ve already discussed. Look into relevant information like past feedback, performance reviews, and notes from 1:1 meetings.
The intention here is not to be frustrated at someone if a behavior or performance didn’t improve, but to understand how you approached the topic in the past, evaluate if there’s additional support you can provide (e.g., learning resources, sessions with a coach), and highlight improvements when giving feedback.
Curating learning content for your reports is a worthy investment and shows you care about them.
2. Be specific and consider ways to be supportive
Few things are more frustrating than feedback without actionable insights. Only telling someone that a report they presented isn’t good enough isn’t constructive nor helpful. So be specific about areas for improvement, and before delivering your feedback, think of ways you can support your people.
- Have you considered segmenting the data in your report? This would make visualization and data comparisons easier.
- Your main argument is interesting, and I’d suggest expanding it further and delving deeper into the topic.
- I feel that the introduction wasn’t descriptive enough for readers who aren’t familiar with the topic. It would be great if you could make it a bit more detailed and provide more context.
- I’ve recently watched an excellent video on the topic. I’ll share it with you — I think it will provide interesting insights and make this task easier for you in the future.
Note: Being specific is also crucial for positive feedback. Telling someone what specifically makes something they did “great” can encourage them to keep focusing on that area of excellence. So don’t stop at “great job!” every time.
3. Decide how to share the feedback
Having regular 1:1 meetings between managers and reports is a best practice, and these meetings are a good time to share constructive feedback (besides, of course, the feedback you should give during performance reviews).
But feedback needs to be timely, and waiting for a 1:1 may not always be an option. Giving feedback in writing may sometimes be preferable (e.g., on Slack, via email, or through Leapsome’s people enablement platform, which includes instant feedback features).
4. Clarify your intent
Once you’ve completed the steps above, this is how you should start delivering your feedback. Clarifying your intent means explaining the “why” behind sharing your opinion on a topic. Let them know why this is important in a sentence or two.
5. Provide context and describe the situation
This goes both for addressing a sensitive situation (e.g., conflict with another team member) or broader feedback, such as suggesting that someone changes how they prioritize their tasks. Saying “I feel that sometimes you prioritize less important topics” isn’t clear enough for effective feedback. Specify instances in which this happened.
Providing examples will help mitigate the chances of your feedback being perceived as a personal attack.
6. Share your opinion
Part of what makes giving and receiving feedback uncomfortable for many people is that it might be based on your opinion. Of course, if addressing a conflict situation within the team, common sense makes appropriate and inappropriate behaviors clear. But when evaluating a project, there’s no going around the fact that you’re sharing your perspective.
So be honest about this and use sentences like “I feel that…” and “I think that…”. Tell your report what your opinion on a matter is, what you think or feel about it, and share your interpretation/perception.
And it’s a good idea to start with what’s working and show that you’re thankful for their contributions instead of going straight for a problem.
7. Listen to what they have to say
Work on your communication skills to nurture transparency and be ready to listen actively to what the other person has to say. You may identify things you hadn’t considered before and gain helpful insights on the situation/topic.
8. Offer support
As explained in step 2, think of ways you can support the employee before giving constructive feedback and keep these suggestions in mind. To foster accountability and build trust, you’d ideally wait until your report shares their need for support first (but don’t expect this to always happen, and don’t shy away from sharing helpful suggestions).
9. Define the next steps
This won’t apply to every situation, but it will be very helpful for some. For example, agree on the next steps so that your report can revise a project or a timeline for them to complete a course.
Follow-up best practices for providing constructive feedback
Check in with your report
Reach out to them not too long after sharing the feedback and ask them if they have questions, how they feel about what you discussed, and if they need support.
Make feedback an ongoing practice — and make it go both ways
Be consistent with your feedback. If you only share it once in a blue moon, it’ll be much harder to establish a feedback culture. As you do that, keep leading by example and asking for other people’s feedback as well.
— Would you like to know more about nurturing a feedback culture? Download the ultimate guide to building feedback into your company.
Oh, and we also recommend checking out our free template with best-practice questions for performance reviews. 😉