As a manager, you are accountable for your team’s performance and developmental growth. One of the best ways to support them is by sharing developmental feedback. For some, like Ian, this is where the job gets hard, as it’s much easier to recognise someone for an outstanding achievement or demonstrating a valuable skill than it is to correct a misstep or call out areas for improvement.
The thing to remember is that when provided in the right way, developmental feedback can have a profound impact on the individual’s motivation and growth. Numerous studies have shown that it’s exactly what the majority of people say they want.
A 2014 assessment of employee attitudes towards “positive” and “corrective” feedback by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman revealed that 57% of respondents preferred receiving corrective feedback. If given properly, and I know that’s a big if, 92% believed developmental feedback was effective in improving performance.
So, how can you give ‘negative’ or developmental feedback in a more positive way that will be listened to? Well, to begin with I gave you some insight in my blog last week. I’d like now to expand upon the message it contained.
But first, why is it that some people dislike either giving or receiving this type of feedback. For many people it’s because it seems like a personal attack on the recipient; and quite frankly that’s because sometimes it is, so it’s no wonder the feedback is taken so badly.
I’m going to assume that whenever you have such feedback to give to a member of your team that you want them to listen to what you have to say and then act upon it, without the negative attitude.
OK, here’s one way that you can do it. You can use the acronym AID which stands for:
- Desired alternative action or behaviour
The big advantage of this model is that, if used correctly, it can depersonalise your comments because, critically, you will be focusing on the performance, not the performer.
So, let’s explore how you can use the model.
The key is to make sure that you focus on the other person’s specific actions or behaviour; not on your interpretation of it. So you are feeding back to them what you actually observed them do or heard them say; not on their intentions, their personality or their character.
For example: “I noticed that you were late for work four days out of five last week.”
The secret in this step is to ensure that your assertion cannot be denied by the other person. Please also note that you are not blaming them. You are just stating your observations.
As a bit of an aside, when you are giving praise it is so easy to say to someone ‘that was really good, well done’ without saying why it was good or what made the difference this time compared with previous occasions.
So, this step can include both the positive or negative impact of their actions, but given the topic of this week’s tip I will focus on the negative if that’s OK.
Here are some impact questions you might want to consider before you speak to the person concerned:
- What impact did/is their performance having on them?
- What impact did/is it having on the team?
- What impact did/is it having on you as their manager?
- How does this performance effect other departments?
- How is the customer (internal or external) impacted?
- Finally, what evidence do you have for this?
So, here is the example taken to the next stage:
“I noticed that you were late for work four days out of five last week. The impact of that was that others in the team had to deal with additional customer service queries which meant the customer waiting times increased”
Desired alternative action or behaviour
So far, so good. Please keep in mind that the purpose of your feedback is to enhance your team member’s performance and, hopefully, motivate them. So this last stage is important to determine what happens next e.g. develop to make it even better next time around, to correct a mistake or to perfect a process. Put the emphasis on what is missing rather than what is wrong – building on strengths or positives is far more likely to engender enthusiasm. Using open questions, ask the individual how they think things can be developed or built upon. This will help to gain buy in and you may be surprised by the options they suggest.
Here are some desired alternative questions you might want to consider:
- What needs to change going forward?
- What does the goal look like?
- Are actions you set SMARTER?
- When will you meet again to confirm improvement or review results?
So, here is the example taken to the next stage:
“I noticed that you were late for work four days out of five last week. The impact of that was that others in the team had to deal with additional customer service queries which meant the customer waiting times increased. Unless there is a problem that I need to know about, I would expect you to be present at 9 O’Clock”
Here’s another example of the model:
“Thank you for providing me with the data I needed. However, it was two days late. Because it was late, I had to cancel a project meeting at short notice and we weren’t able to complete our resource plan on time. In future, if you are faced with competing priorities please let me know asap. That way I can help you adjust your priorities”
One of the key success factors of this process is to make it as data based as possible so that there is little room for your team member to challenge your assertions.
Finally, remember with feedback you always have two choices:
- Tell the person what you want them to know.
- Ask them to self assess and consider what has happened.
You may find initially that you tend to tell rather than to ask. The more you ask the more your team member will be able to self assess and improve their own performance.