Career Insights

Tips for Providing Feedback

Not too long ago, I wrote about how to receive challenging feedback as information — not insult. What about providing feedback? How can you have challenging conversations in a way that builds the other person up while also being honest? 

My favorite Brené Brown-ism is, “Clear is kind” and this is something I work hard to bring into my relationships, both at work and at home. I owe it to those I lead and love to be clear about expectations and also clear about when there is a need to correct course. This is something that leaders within the workplace should refine and develop, as it is a critical aspect of supervising and supporting others. The implications for parenting, friendships and our marriages are there too!

While there are numerous ways to approach providing someone else with feedback, I have two key ways that I seek to provide it without being hurtful and with a goal for a positive path forward. 

1 – I begin the conversation from a place of genuine curiosity 

2 – I ensure there is a relational foundation

Begin the conversation from a place of genuine curiosity. 

This invites dialogue and discussion as opposed to a one-side conversation that has an accusatory tone. Start by letting them know what you have observed and ask them if they can help you understand why those things have been observed. For example, “I’ve noticed lately that there are more errors in your work — things that were surprising because you typically are so careful to proofread. Can you help me understand what I’ve noticed?” 

It is a gracious way to let the person know the observed behavior or issue while also asking them to explain and explore. Often, the end result is a deeper understanding of the issues, which lead to a more effective solution forward. The conversation will also feel less like a scolding and more like a solution-focused discussion. Many times, poor work performance or workplace issues are related to employees not having conditions to succeed. 

There needs to be a relational foundation.

The person receiving feedback must know it is coming from a place of care. It must be clear that the overarching goal is betterment for the person and organization. This does not mean that you are besties, hang out after work or even necessary “like” each other. It does mean that you find ways to stay appropriately connected, keep your promises, and are kind to each other.

Positive, affirming and encouraging feedback should be shared regularly, so when the conversation must shift to challenging feedback, there is a baseline of positive interactions. Additionally, ensuring feedback is consistently provided eliminates the anxieties of wondering what a leader is thinking. Often in life we are most afraid of the unknown — help your team by sharing what you are thinking.

These are two of many tips that can be shared on the topic of providing constructive feedback. People and relationships are paramount and that means that having honest conversations around feedback is a necessity. How do you approach these conversations to contribute to a positive outcome for all? Comment below — I’d love to learn from you!

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