How to make giving feedback in the workplace easy - or at least easier

4/06/2018
For many people, the only thing more fraught than getting feedback on their performance at work is having to give it to someone else.
 
But feedback, as long as it's professional and constructive, can be essential to creating and maintaining a high-performing team.

Greg Harbidge teaches innovation and leadership at Melbourne Business School, and says giving and receiving effective feedback is one of the most difficult tasks of any manager.

"People can go wrong when giving guidance without a framework to help them know how to approach the challenge," Greg says.

"That’s because people typically push back and get defensive, which is why some managers spend whole nights worrying about giving it."

Knowing how to give and receive feedback is one of the most valuable skills a manager can have, which is why the best strategy for someone whose job is to give feedback is to learn how to take it well themselves.

"When receiving feedback yourself, take the chance to listen and clarify what you've heard and understood, and thank the person providing it for making time to give you their guidance," he says.

Another tip for giving constructive – rather than destructive – feedback is to not make it too personal.

"You need to show you care personally, but can challenge directly in a productive way. The key is to not personalise it but focus on particular issues. It's not about them, it’s about someone in a role, and what they're doing and trying to achieve," Greg says.

"Be concrete, specific and suggest a solution or ask how they might solve the problem."

Greg says a good system to learn and remember is the radical candour model made famous by author Kim Scott, which uses the acronym HHIPP:

Humble – because you're not perfect and don't have all the answers. Giving guidance is about creating a conversation and the opportunity to develop and grow.

Helpful – people respond if they actually know how they can do their job better. Help them understand what their role is or isn't, their future in the organisation and value to it.

Immediate – don't wait for months to give guidance, tell them when you’re leaving a meeting if you have the time, and make it a part of your routine. And give it in person because guidance is much more effective and genuine when given face to face rather than by email.

Public – if it's praise, do it in public because public recognition is a powerful motivator that encourages people to take credit and responsibility for their achievements.

Private – if it's criticism, it’s best done in private because it's less embarrassing and the outcome is more likely to be constructive.

After providing constructive feedback or guidance, it's also extremely important to follow up with tangible ways to help solve the issue.

Psychological safety and security are two of the most vital human needs after food, water and shelter, so it's important to provide support as well as the feedback itself.

"More time, more resources, more skills, whatever is needed," Greg says.

Develop your management skills

Melbourne Business Schools offers several education programs for managers to help them succeed, no matter if they're just starting out or already in charge of a team.

Our five-day New Leaders Development Program is for managers who are just starting out, and focuses on developing your self-awareness and relationship skills, plus some useful management skills.

The five-day Emerging Managers Program focuses on negotiation, influencing and coaching skills you can use to help your employees reach their full potential, as well as strategies and  tools for business planning and performance improvement. 

Finally, our three-day Maximising Your Leadership Potential course combines leadership development and reflection with tools to help you align your team's goals to those of the wider organisation.

To find out more about short courses that can help you take your career to the next level, view our range of Executive Education programs.