However frequently you check in on your staff, be it casual drop-ins, monthly one-to-ones or annual reviews (or all three), the energy that you each put into these meetings can be wasted or even harmful if not directed with tact and insight. The art of giving constructive feedback is about a lot more than showing up and pointing out an employee’s successes and fails – it requires preparation, imagination, and meaningful dialogue, if your business is to thrive in the long run. Creating positive, dynamic relationships is vital if your workplace is to remain a fulfilling and prosperous arena.
So how can you go about tweaking your game? First off, your employees do not function within a vacuum. There could be any number of factors in play when a mistake is made or a bad trend identified, so be sure to thoroughly research the situation before you even come face to face. Whilst you should be thinking about their feelings, and about possible causes for a drop in performance, your employee’s personality should come last: don’t make it personal, but keep to facts and figures and allow your employee to fill in the gaps. Give them a chance to give their side of the story, and be sure to listen carefully. That means asking questions, allowing silence where it’s natural, and not interrupting. It’s surprising what you can learn with these techniques.
It works both ways, and part of not working in a vacuum is the fact that your employees also have to work in response to you: so give them the chance to offer you feedback, too. Ask if there is anything you could do differently, and maybe you’ll find they were previously too intimidated to ask for the space to use their own initiative, or conversely for a closer collaboration or more specific instruction. In these ways you can start to build an atmosphere of trust from which problems can be seen not as potential sources of conflict but of opportunity. For more ideas on how to nurture this atmosphere, check out this new infographic by Make It Cheaper, which breaks the constructive criticism process down into three achievable stages.