As a team leader, you will work with all types of people in all types of situations. With this in mind, it only makes sense that there are many types of feedback that we can deliver. In turn, delivering the appropriate type of feedback increases the chance that the receiver will hear, understand, accept, and act on that feedback.
Characteristics of Good Feedback
In order for feedback to be well received and acted upon, four main characteristics should be present. Simply remember the STEBAH acronym:
- Specific: Be specific about what behavior you want the team member to change.
- Timely: The feedback should be delivered as soon as possible for maximum effectiveness.
- Expressed Directly: The feedback should be delivered in a direct manner to the team member whose behavior needs to change.
- Behavior-Focused: The feedback should focus on the behavior that should be changed, not the person, or their personality.
- Actionable: The feedback has to be about something the team member can change. Complaining that their left-handedness is causing a slowdown on the assembly line is not productive, because it is not realistic to expect the individual to be ambidextrous.
- Helpful: Deliver the feedback in a manner that shows that you want to help the individual with this problem. Key attitudes include respectfulness, honesty, open-mindedness, and empathy.
Feedback Delivery Tools
Direct Praise or Criticism
This is often used in informal feedback situations, but can also be used as part of formal feedback. Remember the characteristics of good feedback, even when delivering these short items.
Some examples include:
- “That report that you sent out today looked great, Jamie.”
- “You need to put your hard hat on, Aaron.”
- “Thank you for helping Paul out with that task, Lisa.”
Note that direct criticism, without any buffering (as described below), should be used very rarely – typically only when there is a safety issue (as in the hard hat example above).
The Feedback Sandwich
The feedback sandwich is a constructive way of delivering negative feedback. You simply sandwich the negative between two positives.
Example: “Susan, your report had all the right statistics in it, and I really appreciate that. However, we need you to use the company template. I’ve e-mailed it to you so that you can use it the next time. Good job getting it in on time, too!”
This approach has been criticized because it trains the team member to always expect a negative when they hear a positive, and it takes the focus away from the actual problem. However, it is especially useful for new or sensitive team member or in situations where the job is well done overall.
The Open-Faced Sandwich
The open-faced sandwich is a modified version of the Feedback Sandwich described above. In it, you give the team member some praise, give the feedback, and then give constructive help on modifying the behavior. This places more focus on the problem at hand, but still gives the team member something positive to focus on.
Example: “Susan, your report had all the right statistics in it, and I really appreciate that. However, we need you to use the company template. I’ve e-mailed it to you so that you can use it the next time.”
About 360 Degree Feedback
360 Degree Feedback is a tool that allows the team member to receive feedback from all the groups that they interact with, including customers, co-workers, supervisors, and people that report to them. It is a very intensive process, but when implemented properly, it can give people a real sense of their strengths and weaknesses. Although 360 Degree Feedback is worth a course on its own, just remember that your team should be encouraged to deliver feedback to each other using some of the tools just discussed. This will improve communication and problem solving, and build team co-operation and maturity.
This is the type of feedback that you will deliver most often. This sort of feedback is quick, precise, and direct. It can be delivered in person, over the phone, or via e-mail. It can happen between team members, or between a team leader and their team.
When delivering this type of feedback, be sensitive to the message that you are sending and to the other people present. Criticizing a team member in front of the entire team will not be well received. Perhaps surprisingly, being praised in front of a group can make some people feel uncomfortable, too.
This type of feedback involves documentation and collaboration to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, and to create action plans for addressing those areas. It is typically focused on the long term rather than the short term. Some examples include formal reviews, goal setting meetings, or reporting on the team’s progress in a team meeting. Most often, formal feedback will be delivered from the supervisor to their staff member(s).
When setting up a meeting for formal feedback, remember the following tips.
- Give the team member lots of notice about the meeting.
- Be sensitive when asking them to meet with you. For some people, the phrase, “I’d like to see you in my office,” produces an immediate phobic reaction. It’s best to let them know privately and quietly.
- Let the team member know what the meeting is about and give them any necessary documents to prepare for the meeting. This will also help alleviate fear and anxiety.
- Make sure the meeting is at a convenient time for both you and the team member . Try to avoid scheduling meetings right before lunch or the end of the day so that neither of you feel rushed.