Ahhh spring time! For most of us spring reminds of renewal, new growth, and opportunities and endless warm weather activities ahead. For many organizations, spring is a time of review and renewal as well. Evaluations, status reports, Performance appraisals, work activity reviews, regardless of what you call them spring is a time to review and access past activities and plan forward for the coming year. It is also a time for employee performance reviews which can be a stressful time for of employees for employees and managers alike. If performance is good and all is going well, many find this a perfunctory exercise steeped with awkward silence and platitudes like “keep up the good work” I remember one of my managers saying to me “If you don’t h=see me, then you are having a good day”. In other words the only time he talked to me was to reprimand if I was doing something wrong.

If by chance there are performance issues, managers and employees alike can find this the most stressful conversation they will ever have. It becomes unnecessarily stressful because neither party know how to provide or ask for effective feedback.

And that’s where the process falls apart. Managers are reticent to provide feedback for a variety of reasons but mostly because they have not been taught how to provide feedback in an productive conversation. Likewise employees are often unaware that they have a role to play in their own performance assessment and therefore they prepare poorly.

Effective feedback tips:

  1. Set up a time and place  for the meeting. Ensure no interruptions and provide your undivided attention to this time together. This may sound like a ‘no brainer’ suggestion but it is one of the simplest means to motivate staff members by clearly demonstrating that they are worth a piece of your time. f you are a manager, I am hoping you create this safe dialog scenario with your employees on a regular basis.
  2. Prepare what you plan to say. There is no need to write a script but you should have a clear vision of what you would like to discuss. Employees also need to prepare to ensure they are using the feedback process to their best advantage and have written notes of things you would like to provide feedback on.
  3. Ensure your feedback includes points of success as well as points for improvement. Some of the worst employee review stories belong to those that are greeted with a laundry list of their failure and shortcomings. Aim to provide a good mixture of encouraging feedback on accomplishments as well as areas for improvement.
  4. Use your vocabulary. Aiming to provide feedback that  addresses personal behavior will provide more meaning and stick more, than commenting on something they accomplished. For example: I appreciate the level of detail you provided. This report is so thorough I don’t have to go searching for substantiating documents. Rather than “Good job on the report.I like it.”

Employees note: Use the familiar “Good job. I liked that”  to your advantage. Ask “What specifically did you like about it?” This way you will have a more detailed account of your personal strengths and you will know specifically what contributions are valued in your workplace.

5. Be specific. Being detailed in your remarks is critically important if you are seeking improvement from your staff.  By providing a clear recent example in a non-judgmental fashion, you can then offer suggestions for success in the future. For example: You might say” I noted in the recent report you wrote that it did not provide the entire scope of the project. Without all the information in one place, I spend time looking for substantiating documents. I would like the reports to be complete so that I have all the information in the report that I am looking for, which in turn will save me time.”

6. Ask your staff to assess themselves. Regardless of your relationship to the employee or their status in the organization, set the coaching tone by asking the individual to assess themselves. In almost every situation, including working with children, most people have a fairly clear view of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know in what areas they have worked well and also what other areas need attention This approach takes the attention off the manager to provide feedback and affords the employee with the responsibility for their own productivity. If you are an employee, this is an excellent opportunity to ask for the support you require to do your job, whether you require training, learning opportunities, or tools.

Performance reviews and appraisals can be stressful but they can also provide an opportunity for both parties to learn from one another and to support each other in working towards a common goal and personal excellence. Feedback, done right, should provide the employee with motivation and enthusiasm to improve and leave a manager with hopeful anticipation for increased productivity and healthy relationships.

For more information on Feedback Coaching, email me at karen@karenhannacoaching.ca