How to Give Your Team Productive Feedback

How am I doing, boss?  Whether they say the words or not, the question is on the minds of your employees. It’s human nature to want feedback. It’s also in the nature of small business owners to provide it. But are you providing the kind of feedback that produces results? Here are five tips to help you give more productive feedback to your team members.

“Productive feedback” is the information you provide on an employee’s performance. You want them to either do the same great thing or to change their behavior to support your business goals. Keep the emphasis on producing the desired result. Take a look at these guidelines to help you improve your feedback skills:

  • It’s a two-way street – Feedback works both ways. Talking to an employee is only half the task. You also have to listen to what they say in response. It helps you determine if the message was heard. It can also provide additional information that helps you see the big picture. For example, you provide feedback to an associate who is frequently short when closing out the register. You learn from their comments that they’re missing an important step. That tells you to provide some additional training/supervision until they master the process.
  • You don’t have a poker face – It’s not just what you say but how you say it. Your body language might provide a completely different meaning than you intended. For example, a boss that looks away when giving a compliment gives the impression that she doesn’t really mean it. Be sure that your nonverbal feedback sends the same message as your words. A good clue is to observe the employee’s body language after receiving the feedback. If it’s not what you expected, you may need to restate your feedback in another way.
  • Honey attracts worker bees – Remember, feedback isn’t just negative. People like it when good things happen. They’ll want to do what it takes to make it happen again. So, a well-placed attaboy encourages an employee to keep up the good work. And it costs you nothing to do it. It also has a residual affect on other employees. When they observe someone else getting positive strokes, they’ll want to repeat the same behavior too.
  • Pick your spot – Carefully consider where/when you provide feedback. Unless your employee’s action is causing imminent damage, deliver negative feedback individually rather publically. Don’t complicate the issue with the employee having to “save face” in addition to changing their behavior. For example, offer to assist an employee who is having difficulty responding to an upset customer. Then, approach the employee shortly after to role-play other ways he could handle the situation next time.
  • Be specific – It’s difficult for employees to change their behavior if it’s not clear how they can improve. So feedback like, “You need to be more friendly to customers,” isn’t specific enough for them to know what they need to do. Instead, try this: “I want you to greet a customer within the first minute they arrive, introduce yourself and let them know you are here to help if they need it.” That clearly lets them know what behavior you’re looking for. It also gives you a measure to determine whether they’ve improved.

Productive feedback is about producing the right results for your small business. So it’s important to pay attention to how you give it. Following these guidelines will help to ensure that your feedback delivers the results you intended.

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