Mehreen Farhan

Let’s get one fact straight: feedback is not always negative.

Tough feedback doesn’t have to be tough on you or your team. Regular and open feedback sessions are among the best tools you can use to keep a team on track.

Feedback is one of the best arsenal you have to keep your team aligned and motivated towards the main objective. 

If you have recently shifted to a managerial role, giving effective feedback can be challenging. This is especially the case when you have to communicate tough feedback that needs finesse and skill to pass on.

In this article, I will share some insights into what effective feedback looks like, and how to become a pro at it. By the end of this piece, you will not only understand its importance but also learn ways of executing it effortlessly, ensuring receptivity and adoption by your team members.

Importance of Regular Effective Feedback Sessions:

The key to team building is regular and effective feedback activities. It can be one of the best ways you can ensure you have a communication bridge open with all your team members. Some of the reasons why regular feedback is important are:

  1. Helps team members understand their strengths and weaknesses 
  2. Addresses potential problems before they occur 
  3. Helps teams realign the goals and vision of the team 
  4. A way for team owners to understand roadblocks faced by their team members 

In an online survey comprising 50 Pakistani women employed in various roles within the corporate sector, it was found that 70% reported having regular feedback sessions as needed. Furthermore, 88.5% of respondents indicated that timely feedback has contributed to their enhanced comprehension of the team’s vision.

These results are promising, suggesting a positive trend toward fostering an open workplace culture that prioritizes effective communication.

How to Conduct Effective Feedback:

The best feedback is the one that inspires a positive change. 

For example, feedback can be due in case an employee’s performance has recently started to decline, or if a team member’s behavior is in question. 

In teams that foster inclusivity and transparency, feedback cycles are executed periodically, signaling to everyone that a two-way open communication channel is always available to them.

There are several frameworks available that can help ensure a successful feedback session. The most popular of these techniques is the ‘sandwich method’.

The Sandwich Technique:

In a nutshell, the sandwich technique follows this formula: positive, negative, positive.

Start with the Positive: 

Start your discussion by highlighting the strengths of the employee. Build receptivity by acknowledging their ongoing efforts. “I am happy that this has overall been a great quarter for you with all the amazing work you’ve sent in”, and “I am truly impressed with your attention to detail in all the major threads you’ve been assigned”.

Conversely, you can also mention one of their recent accomplishments. “The recent RFP deliverable sent in by you was appreciated by the management as well, way to go!”, “Our last server migration went error-free, thanks to the insightful impact analysis you did, we were able to avoid some issues that could have shown up otherwise”.

Benefits:

  • Sets the employee at ease
  • Builds a connection between the manager/lead and the employee
  • Makes the employee feel appreciated and noticed
  • Creates receptivity in the employee

Putting the employee in a state of receptivity is important before moving to the next step.

Shift to the Negative: 

Now that the employee is at ease and a connection has been established, mention areas that need improvement, or areas where certain grievances have come up. This step can be difficult for some, especially first-time managers. 

“You are doing amazing work, and I would like to mention a few things that can be better, some minor tweaks to stay on track”,

“Your work is always on spot, but your behavior has recently been problematic… how about we work on this together and I assure you, it can really set you apart”..

It is important to understand the true intent of feedback. You are here to help and guide; you are showing them just what to avoid before a problem arises; this feedback given today can help them improve and can perhaps prove to be the point where their professional trajectory turns for the better. 

Once you internalize that the intent is purely professional and for their best interest, giving negative feedback openly and honestly becomes easier. 

It takes a bit of some practice to handle this step graciously. If you have recently started giving feedback, it is fine to struggle the first few times.

End with the Positive:

After sharing areas of improvement, leave your team members feeling motivated by reminding them, once more, of their ability and your trust in their work ethic. 

“I am fully confident in your abilities to take these points as a challenge and overcome them…”, “You have been amazing so far, just don’t let these small hiccups on the road discourage you”. 

Or it could simply be an assurance that they have your support, “I hope you know I’m always here in case you face any roadblocks”, or “Reach out to me if you don’t get the help you need, that’s what I’m here for”.

Based on survey findings, it was revealed that among 50 Pakistani women employed in corporate settings, merely 35% expressed that engaging in productive feedback sessions with their superiors facilitated a better understanding of their areas for improvement and left them feeling motivated afterward. Conversely, 19% expressed uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of these sessions, indicating a lack of clarity and subsequent ineffectiveness. 

It’s imperative for team members to have a clear understanding of their objectives and feel sufficiently motivated post-feedback sessions.

Tips for More Effective Feedback:

Building onto the sandwich method, here are some suggestions that I always employ in my feedback sessions. They have proved to be a great catalyst in getting people to adapt to the intended change/improvement.

Sit at Level with the Employee: 

As a rule of thumb, I would prefer sitting at the level of the employee. This means that I will get out of an authoritative seat, and join them either on the sofa or sit across from them on the next chair. This is an indirect signal to them that we are equal and the feedback given to them comes from a place of empathy and concern.

Unfortunately, within our sample group, only 27% of women reported experiencing empathy and respect in one-on-one interactions.

Give Context: 

Giving context to your team members is a way of giving them respect. Context is crucial to any feedback discussion you will ever give. Tell them your vision for the team, what you would like everyone to work towards, and where they fit in the overall goals of the organization.

When an employee can see how they are exactly contributing to the company’s goals, they feel included and motivated to play their part in ownership.

What’s In It for Them? 

Your narrative should discuss how the change expected from them is going to benefit them too, either professionally or personally. Chalk out a plan that shows them how focusing their efforts toward the organization’s goals will eventually trickle down to meeting their own professional goals. 

It is always a good idea to take a paper and pen with you and teach them how what they are doing today will help them in the long run. Personally, this is a great hit with my team. I make a roadmap for them on paper which they can refer to later, whenever needed.

Allow a Two-Way Communication Flow:

Never let the feedback activity be a monologue. 

If it is becoming a monologue, you are heading towards disaster. Lead the discussion but keep probing your team members to add their insights. “Can you tell me your version of it?”, “I’d like you to correct me on this…”, “I’d like to hear your thoughts on this…”.

If you are dealing with a shy team member, or someone who simply doesn’t want to contribute, be sure to tell them how important it is for them to pitch in. “I’d appreciate it if you could also share your views on this”, “I won’t be able to help you if I am the only one talking”, and “Let me help you, this is a safe zone and your input will stay confidential”.

Suggest the Way Forward: 

A feedback session serves as an invaluable tool, shining a spotlight on areas where an employee can elevate their performance. When conducted regularly, these sessions transcend mere evaluations—they become a pathway to ongoing improvement and progress.

Instead of merely pinpointing problems, seize the opportunity to be a mentor by offering practical solutions. Consider presenting multiple options and empower your team members to actively participate in deciding the way forward. This approach not only fosters a problem-solving mindset but also cultivates a sense of ownership and responsibility among your team, setting the stage for long-term success.

Always Say Yes to Feedback Request:

You may be busy and juggling many threads, but never say no to someone who has asked for your time for feedback. I make it a point to stop everything dead in the tracks and to be present for such requests at the suggested time and date. It makes your employees feel valued and heard. The good news is, if you are getting feedback requests from them, it means they see value in it too.

Within our test pool, 27% of women express that they do not feel encouraged to request one-on-one sessions. It’s crucial to investigate whether there might be any miscommunication between you and your team.

Closing Thoughts

Feedback is not just a tool; it’s a catalyst for growth and success. Its benefits are multifaceted, offering a panoramic view of improvement from every angle. The crucial element lies in authenticity, coupled with an open-minded approach that actively involves the recipient in the feedback process.

Genuine concern for the individual’s best interests should guide your words—firm yet kind. In times that demand it, don’t shy away from presenting an honest picture, assuring them that it’s a crucial step toward their personal and professional development.

Make these feedback sessions a regular occurrence, ideally every quarter, and witness a remarkable return on investment for your team. The time dedicated to these sessions is an invaluable commitment that fuels growth, nurtures talent, and propels your team toward unparalleled success.

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Guide / Team Building 101

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