How We Give Employee Feedback

Want to be the kind of leader that invests in your team? To grow your team, start by giving them the right feedback.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

—Jack Welch

Sales Management and Leadership Expert, Steve Keating, recently wrote a post The Need for Feedback where he explains how vital it is as a leader to give your team feedback if you want them to grow.

The problem with most feedback

Keating explains that one of the problems is that many leaders only give feedback to their team on what needs improving, and forget to give feedback on what they’re doing well. By focusing only on what your employees are doing wrong, you’ll make the feedback process a negative one both for you and for your employees. Who trots off to a meeting with excitement when they know they’re only going to be scolded on what they did wrong or could have done better?

Another common problem with feedback is that it’s not consistent or specific enough. Telling an employee once in a blue moon that they did a great job will only go so far. And mentioning once they need to work on a specific skill will not help them master that skill.

How to give feedback

One technique for giving employee feedback is the Build-Break-Build method. Start with positive feedback, then discuss areas that can use improving, and finish with more praise. By starting with positive feedback, people are more receptive to what you have to say next. And by ending with more praise, they don’t leave just focusing on the negative side. This balance helps employees feel appreciated and encouraged to continue to do things well, while feeling motivated to improve.

When giving feedback, it can also be beneficial to frame it in questions. I had a teacher that instead of teaching by telling, he taught by asking. Whenever I felt stuck, he would ask a few questions that forced me to really think and helped guide me to find the answer. I always left his class feeling smarter and empowered.

By telling people what to do, you limit their abilities to think for themselves. This diminishes their ability to learn and grow because they become accustomed to waiting for instructions. But by asking the right questions, you can challenge people to think for themselves, forcing them to learn and develop more initiative.

The result is that you get way more out of your employees because you’re investing in their growth. This concept is discussed in depth in the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman. If you manage people or lead a team in any way, I highly recommend reading this book; it will change the way you see and lead people.

Weekly One-on-ones

Over the past few years, we’ve been working on implementing The Rockefeller Habits. Part of this methodology is making sure everyone in the company has weekly one-on-ones with his or her manager. Instead of waiting for a quarterly or annual review, give your employees a weekly opportunity to voice concerns.

If weekly isn’t feasible, start off with bi-weekly. Weekly one-on-ones also give you, the manager or business owner, the opportunity to frequently help challenge and grow your team members.

Feedback template

Our C.O.O., Mike Clark, uses Jell to send this one-on-one feedback template to team members to fill out. I found this feedback template so helpful that I rolled it out to my team as well. So far it’s been really helpful to keep us on track, identify each other’s strengths, and where we need more coaching.

For my team, I prefer to delegate a task through Daylite and then use notes linked to the weekly meetings. You could also use email.

How you send it isn’t that important, but the timing of it is. We’ve found sending them on Thursdays for the following Monday one-on-ones is ideal. This way you get accurate feedback from your team while they’re still “in the thick” of the week. It also gives you more time to review the feedback and prepare before your one-on-ones.

Here is a screenshot of what the template looks in Jell:

Leveraging feedback

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how well are things going?

    This makes it easy to guage and track the engagement of your employees. If a team member goes from a 9 to a 6, that’s a red flag that there’s something to be discussed. Was there an issue with another team member? Are they not enjoying the work they’re doing? Is there a process problem that needs streamlining?

    By tracking engagement trends, you can identify quickly when employees are overly stressed or bored– neither of which lead to optimal work.
  2. What’s working well, or what are you excited about?

    This question is a great segway to give positive feedback. Usually, things people enjoy doing are things they’re good at, and people like being told when they’re doing a good job. I also use this question to identify the type of work each team member enjoys doing, then work with them to incorporate more of that kind of work into their role.
  3. What’s not working well, or where do you feel stuck?

    This is an opportunity to help coach employees in areas they’re struggling. Listen and offer suggestions that will help and challenge them. This helps you as a leader to be more proactive in dealing with situations that can lead to process breakdowns, overdue deadlines, unhappy customers, or unhappy employees.
  4. What are the most important things you want to accomplish this coming week?

    This question helps us make sure everyone is on track and focusing on the right things. By making sure we’re thinking about our priorities for the following week, we know what we’re working towards and can focus on the right things.
  5. What things do you need from me this week?

    This question makes it easy for your team members to ask for help. Do they need approval on something that’s been pending before they can move forward? Is there a specific task they’re finding challenging and they need your coaching on? This makes it clear what you should be focusing on to help your team do their job effectively.
  6. Is there anything else you want to share or discuss?

    This allows your team members to share any concerns and ask questions. It’s a free space to share feedback on anything that needs surfacing.

I’ve found this template and structure of one-on-ones really helpful in aligning my team members with company goals. It’s also been beneficial to identify opportunities for improvement and better leverage the skills of each team member.

What techniques have you found helpful in giving feedback to your team? Share your ideas with us on Twitter or Facebook!