We all want our employees to work effectively and efficiently. And we want to instill a strong sense of purpose and motivation to achieve. Yet in our daily grind, we sometimes get too distracted by deadlines and priority lists — and overlook key factors in creating and maintaining a strong team.
When it comes to cultivating the drive to achieve, providing consistent feedback is a powerful tool that pays off in the end. Employees can’t read minds (though they can read between the lines of a curt email). And they need to know what they’re doing well and what they can do better. As Bill Gates tells an audience at a recent TED Talk: “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” The feedback needs to be more than a one-word mark of approval or disapproval, Gates adds. It needs to be a real dialogue.
How can you generate a real, open dialogue among employees and colleagues? From formal mentorship programs to peer reviews, there are many ways to help good teams become great teams through open dialogue. Important to keep in mind, however, is that the kind of feedback given matters. In a 2007 study, “The Power of Feedback,” researchers John Hattie and Helen Timperley found that the type of feedback — and, equally important, the method of delivery — affects whether it’s constructive or not. After all, no one wants to hear only about shortcomings and mistakes, which is a surefire way to dampen morale and make people angry.
So how can you keep the atmosphere positive — and use feedback to your advantage (and the advantage of your bottom line)? Here are strategies to help.
1. Make It Goal-Driven
Effective feedback starts with a goal (their goal, not your goal). And every piece of feedback — both positive and negative — needs to relate to the goal in some way. When evaluating employees, analyze the specific actions they’ve taken to achieve that goal, and comment on their progress in reaching their targets.
2. Make It Actionable
Useful feedback systems involve not only a clear goal but also tangible results related to the goal. Effective feedback is concrete, specific, and useful — while general statements and comments like “Good job!” or “That didn’t work” typically aren’t effective because they’re vague. Simple quantitative measurements that rank a performance, such as a “B+” or “A-,” aren’t useful either. Employees need actionable information that covers exactly what steps they can take to improve.
3. Make It User Friendly
Even specific and accurate information can be ineffective if an employee can’t understand it or is overwhelmed by the information. Avoid giving highly technical feedback, which can be almost as confusing as generic and broad feedback. Put feedback in terms your employees will understand. Break it down into bullet points, organize it by a deadline-driven time frame, and make it applicable to their situation. They’ll be able to use the feedback more effectively.
4. Make It Timely
The sooner employees get feedback, the better. Feedback is always more effective when employees can correct the situation while it’s still fresh in their minds. When possible, give feedback on the spot, in real time. Studies show, in fact, that many employees prefer regular, informal feedback sessions throughout the work week more so than formal reviews that stretch across longer periods of time, such as the “Mid-Year Evaluation” or “Annual Performance Review.”
While many companies recognize that giving and receiving feedback are crucial to performance management, they often give feedback that’s too vague, too infrequent, or too complicated to be truly effective. To get the best results, start focusing on positive changes your employees can make — and provide feedback that’s meaningful, specific, timely, and actionable. Master the art of constructive feedback, and you’ll see the effects immediately — in your employees’ performances and attitudes, and in your bottom line.
Want more advice on managing your sales team? Read more on the memoryBlue blog. Check out the memoryBlue culture, where feedback and mentoring are a big part of our training. Think you have what it takes to be part of the memoryBlue team? Contact us.
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