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  • Writer's pictureThomas E. Anderson, II

6 Success Strategies for Your Next Feedback Conversation

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

If you haven’t given anyone feedback in the last 20 minutes, be prepared. The time is quickly approaching.

Most people avoid giving feedback because it can be uncomfortable. Part of that discomfort stems from not knowing what the person “on the other side of the table” is expecting.

Here are 5 keys to hitting a home run in your next feedback conversation.

1. Give feedback more often. Employees want more feedback (not less) from their managers. Studies show that managers think they give more feedback than they actually do. This could reflect a difference in…I don’t know…time orientation. Here’s the point: without more frequent, individualized feedback, employees can disengage.

2. Provide high-quality feedback. Our brains are wired to dwell on negative comments more than positive ones. Thus, managers should start with a comment on the strengths of the employee’s performance. (It may help to take a breath before doing this…especially if you are fully immersed in the workday whirlwind). Also, provide a suggestion for improvement. Don’t forget—employees also want to know what they’re doing right. So, a quick compliment goes a long way.

3. Listen. This may sound simple or even counterintuitive, but listening is a critical part of the feedback process. Give the other person space to process what you’re saying. Asking questions like, “could you share a little bit about what this means to you?” gives them the chance to speak freely. Your feedback is new information that they will need to absorb and evaluate.

4. Don’t procrastinate. Puhlease, do *not* save all of your feedback for a performance appraisal. Employees want timely and immediate feedback. I did a quick study a few years ago and found that employees felt guilty when they received feedback for something that happened 3 months ago. Why? Because the realized they blew it and could do anything to correct their mistake. As much as possible, provide feedback in the moment.

5. Consider the setting. Create a balance between the informal and formal feedback sessions. Formal feedback can happen in a scheduled coaching or mentoring session. One manager I talked to likes doing 10:10 sessions. In the first 10 minutes, she provides work-related feedback. During the last 10, she gives the employee the power to choose what they want to discuss…including personal topics. This is a great way to address any work-life spillover that is indirectly affecting work performance.

6. Make it actionable. Actionability and timeliness (key #3) walk hand in hand. To be actionable, feedback needs to be immediate and easy to implement.

Giving feedback should not be hard, especially when giving from a place of humility. So take a breath, and have a human conversation—even if it’s a tough conversation. The results may just surprise you.


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