How Effective Managers Deliver Constructive Feedback

How Effective Managers Deliver Constructive Feedback

Providing feedback is part and parcel of any managers role.  It clearly conveys which behaviours are desired for success and has been shown to be related to a range of important work outcomes including motivation, engagement, and performance.  Feedback allows employees to set appropriate goals and expectations, provides intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, and gives opportunities for personal development.

The benefits of feedback are evident, and yet over 37% of supervisors report that they feel uncomfortable giving feedback and 69% state that when in the position of a supervisor, they can feel uncomfortable even interacting with their employees.

Those receiving feedback are no more satisfied with the process.  The most common employee complaints are that managers don’t understand how to evaluate or give negative feedback.

Despite this, 65% of employees are craving additional feedback in their jobs.

That’s because they know people thrive when given appropriate behavioural expectations and feedback.  If we get it right, feedback creates a culture of collaboration, connection, and sustainable change.  Providing honest and constructive feedback can be stressful, but it is a necessary and vital part of effective management.  With that in mind, how do the effective managers deliver constructive feedback?

They are Direct and Specific
There’s no point beating around the bush when discussing negative feedback.  It’s an opportunity for growth and the best way to ensure employees understand where issues are rising from.  Speaking directly increases the likelihood of an employee correcting their behaviours, as there is less chance of being misconstrued.  Feedback must also be focused on the specific skills of the role.  General feedback doesn’t provide the same degree of targeted behaviour change in contrast to specifics about performance.

Providing some examples can quickly demonstrate why a manager is commenting on the behaviour.  This prevents frustrated or angry recipients from believing the critique is more personal than professional.  Imagined slights and malice are toxic.  Acknowledge the emotions of the room and stick to the objective specifics they can’t argue against.

They are Positive and Supportive
Feedback must be delivered in a positive, supportive manner that allows employees to remain engaged about their roles, even in the face of critical and negative feedback.  Making someone feel wrong, or acting superior, is way off track.

Employers are setting themselves up for a hostile exchange when starting their reviews with demands such as ‘Come in and shut the door, I need to talk to you’.  Take the tension out of the situation by always framing feedback discussions around helping to improve the employee.  Don’t create an environment of conflict when it isn’t necessary.

They Act Immediately
Feedback needs to occur as immediately as possible.  The stock standard annual performance appraisal is considered a dinosaur these days.  Instead, more informal meetings have emerged as the standard.  This presents the opportunity for managers to deal with any behaviour issues early, before they become pervasive and systemic.  An effective manager becomes aware of issues and takes strides to deal with them as soon as possible.  Employees are likely to learn much more from this experience when they can remember the details, instead of six months down the line.

They Actively Listen
Active listening is a skill that can be quickly taught and drastically improves communication.  Listening gives the employee a space in which to feel respected and understand information on their own terms.  As well as giving the employee your full attention, it’s important that managers can be ‘seen’ to be listening.  Convey interest to the speaker through both verbal and non-verbal messages, maintaining eye contact, nodding, smiling, and agreeing by saying yes or ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue.

If the employee is struggling to work through some tough feedback, be brave enough allow moments of silence to come into the conversation.  A feedback exchange is a learning experience for both parties.  Give the recipient time to work through the feedback.  Letting the employee put their own stamp on the conversation will ensure they feel more at ease and therefore communicate more easily and openly.

They Provide Clear Goals to Pursue
Feedback should be a process of developing clear future expectations of behaviour.  The development of goals, and solutions to any negative behaviour are key to the employee understanding what they must go going forward.  Setting challenging but achievable goals gives employees a clear path to work towards.  It allows employees to focus on the priorities that really matter, guides decision-making, and makes them responsible for their own actions.

They Inspire Greatness
Even when providing negative feedback there are opportunities to further inspire direct reports.  Effective managers set organisational standards high and encourage people to stretch themselves beyond what they can see for themselves.  There’s a reason you don’t see too many Olympic athletes without a coach.  Effective managers communicate the brilliance of the recipient and the aspiration for who they can become.  Conveying this message in a caring, supportive manner ensures employees are inspired to take feedback onboard and run with it to success.
The stakes are too high in this competitive environment to shy away from difficult conversations with employees.  Without feedback organisations diminish and become ineffective.  Team communication and culture breaks down.  But for those effective managers who can utilise feedback, it becomes an efficient developmental tool that ensures organisational growth and success.  It costs absolutely nothing except an emotional investment of honesty, the risks of a bad reaction, and perhaps at times, feeling uncomfortable.
Luckily for those managers who fear the fallout of poor feedback, personality questionnaires can highlight those individuals who are more receptive to feedback.

The Business Personality Reflections® is one such personality questionnaire that measures business-related competencies to assist in selection and personal development decisions.  Developed by Psych Press, this assessment contains 70 personality scales that can be tailored to any organisational role.  Below is more information about the Personal Development Scale in the Business Personality Reflections®

Personal Development

Personal development is a measure of an individual’s preference for obtaining and developing new skills, as well as their level of receptivity to feedback.  The Personal Development scale in the Business Personality Reflections® questionnaire indicates the degree to which an individual is likely to desire understanding and developing new skills, and whether they believe advice and comments from others to be beneficial.  Personal development tendencies place individuals at a sizeable competitive advantage as they are catalysts for their own professional development and will continually seek to increase their own intellectual capital.  Without it, an employee may show reluctance in broadening their knowledge and skill set and may be less receptive to constructive feedback.

Individuals who score highly on the Business Personality Reflections® Personal Development Scale are more likely to want to master new situations, and are likely to regard feedback as useful and fundamental to self-progression.  Employees who have personal development characteristics are also likely to be self-driven, goal-oriented, and innovative.

The results of several studies show that the Big Five personality dimensions of ‘openness to experience and conscientiousness’ are positively related to personal development, specifically proactive learning and feedback-seeking behaviour (Maurer, Lippstreu & Judge, 2008; Orvis & Leffler, 2011).  In a longitudinal study, Seibert, Kraimer & Crant (2001) found proactive and open dispositions to be associated with heightened job performance and role satisfaction. This study also found personal development tendencies elicited long-term benefits for employees, including higher salaries and career success (Seibert et al., 2001).  Cultivating employee satisfaction and growing intellectual capital increases productivity and innovation, which will ultimately increase an organisation’s competitive advantage (Roffe, 1999).

A sample item for the Personal Development scale that you may see on our questionnaire could be:

“To be of the most benefit to their company, workers should continually learn new things”.

You might consider using a personal development scale in your recruiting and development processes if employees deal with the following:

  • Team-oriented tasks where employees offer feedback and advice to challenge and support one another.
  • A flexible and dynamic working environment.
  • Constant career progression and development.

Organisations need employees who are high in personal development tendencies to succeed.  Let us help you find and develop the right people for your organisation so that you can maintain your competitive advantage. 


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