Performance appraisals and other methods of providing ongoing employee feedback are more than just management best practices. The ability to give feedback that causes people to be their best and do their best work is an essential skill in a leader's toolbox.
With all the emphasis on employee engagement I'll suggest that feedback is also specifically one of a leader's most important tools for facilitating engagement. When people know where they stand and are clear about what it will take for them to succeed, they are far more likely to engage and become owners of the future with you.
The challenge, however, can be making sure that the use of these tools is more than a "check the box" exercise.
Giving great feedback is hard work. It takes intention, focus and time to do it well. If you are serious about developing people and cultivating leadership in others, mastering the skill of giving feedback is essential.
The question is: What constitutes great feedback?
Whether it is for an annual appraisal or to provide feedback that will help someone be better and do better, here are three keys to giving great feedback:
1: LEARN what matters
most to THEM.
It doesn't matter whether you are giving feedback to a top performer or a poor performer. The place to start is by first learning what is important to them.
When you know what matters most to the person to whom you are giving feedback, you can speak directly to their commitments and increase the likelihood of reaching the best in them.
2: SPEAK to make a difference in THEIR future.
It is amazing what people are willing to listen to when they know your commitment is to make a difference in their future.
Be mindful of the natural tendency to focus on what didn't work in the past. Start with a focus on their commitments and aspirations and you can instead use your observations of past actions and behavior instructively rather than as criticism.
None of us can change what we did or didn't do in the past. The gap between the past and present can never be closed. The gap between the present and a desired future, however, can be the source of greatness. When you focus on the future, the past can help them see where they need to grow rather than become a source of resignation, doubt, or even defeat.
3: SHIFT your focus from YOUR expectations to THEIR aspirations.
Even if they admire and respect you, an employee's best effort and results will only come when they are at work on fulfilling their own aspirations, rather than trying to meet your expectations of them.
You can manage people to meet your expectations or you can let go of your expectations in favor of their aspirations.
This doesn't mean that you don't guide them in understanding the standards of performance that are acceptable and even possible. It does mean that their growth isn't about making you happy, but rather about them experiencing the motivation and satisfaction that comes from owning their future.
The true test of how great your feedback is lies in what comes next.
The ultimate sign that your feedback hit the mark is when they own the future with you, not because you expect it from them, but because they truly believe it's their future, too.
Your turn: What are some tips you have for giving effective feedback?