A manager’s guide to giving feedback (Wharton magazine)

Putting these tips into action can lead to better workplace discussions and a healthier office environment.

As a manager, giving and receiving feedback are both critical. Managers play an important role in fostering a productive, inclusive and engaging work culture. They are responsible for recruiting and retaining talent, engaging employees, developing their team, and setting performance goals. Unfortunately, management does not come naturally for most. Gallup research suggests that only one in 10 people possess the natural talent to be a great manager and another two in 10 can become effective managers with coaching and development. Often people get promoted to manager because they have worked at a company for many years, or they were successful as an independent contributor, such as a salesperson, and then promoted. Since new jobs typically require a different set of skills, managers need to learn new tools. Giving effective feedback is a wonderful tool to engage and develop your team for greater success. These three tips will help you reach that goal.

Make feedback part of your culture rather than an infrequent, big event.

Feedback can be very effective when given in small doses on a continuous basis, such as on a weekly basis after a call, meeting, or presentation. Too often, giving feedback becomes a big and stressful event, taking the form of a scheduled review mid-year or at the end of the year. Yes, formal reviews are important, but employees need more frequent one-on-one time to know you care.

Share feedback through a strengths lens.

Gallup’s research shows that people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. Managers can increase engagement and productivity simply by focusing on strengths, as opposed to pointing out weaknesses or ignoring employees. Often, our greatest strengths can be misinterpreted and used ineffectively

Be specific and highlight excellence.

Too many managers are vague in their feedback or use feedback to only highlight weaknesses. Direct reports will be much more receptive to feedback if you can be specific and help them understand how they deliver excellence. This approach will help them identify which behaviors to repeat and how they add value. When possible, try these small shifts in giving feedback about strengths:

– Shift from saying “Great job in the meeting” to “Great job finding areas of agreement and bringing the group together to help us have a productive meeting.”

– Shift from saying ”Thanks for pulling together the analyses” to “Thanks for pulling together the analyses and highlighting the key pieces of data that helped us decide to move forward with the deal.”

Giving frequent, specific, and strengths-based feedback can be an effective resource for managers seeking to build a more engaged and productive team.

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