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Useful feedback comes regularly

Tip number five (out of the eight originally shared) is to make sure that giving feedback is not a rare occurrence.

When we think about the timing of feedback, there are two main kinds: performance feedback (which comes regularly) and event-driven feedback (that comes when there is an outstanding event, either positive or not-so-hot). Below are my suggestions on how to best use these two differently-timed feedback types to make your feedback most effective.

Performance Feedback

You won't be surprised to hear that performance feedback is about how your employees are doing in their jobs. This feedback covers not just what they're doing, but how they're doing it. For example, maybe your employees' reports are great (what), but they tend to wait to turn them in until after you've left for the day (how). Or their reports are full of errors (what) but they're willing to accept feedback and learn (how). Or, if you're unlucky, their reports are full of errors (what) AND they turn them in after you're gone (how). When providing feedback on performance, you want to keep in mind not just what's happening -- not just the results or outcomes you're seeing -- but also the ways and means that the employees use to get those results.

I recommend giving performance feedback in every 1:1 meeting that you have so that your employees get comfortable hearing your feedback and start to expect it. That way, by the time your formal appraisal comes around (whenever that happens in your organization) you have practice giving feedback and they have practice receiving it. (And the things you discuss will truly be a review, not new information.) If things are going well, your performance feedback can be praise - there's no reason to dig up small things just to provide corrective feedback. But you can also look at the next level of performance for that employee and instead of comparing their behavior or performance to this role's expectations, compare it to a level up.

I also suggest that you request performance feedback from your employees in every 1:1 meeting so they can see you model how to receive feedback well, and so they feel they have some influence over how the two of you work together.

Event-Driven Feedback

Performance feedback should be the majority of your feedback (especially if you're delivering it every week or other week), but every now and then you'll run into situations where you need to provide feedback -- either positive or corrective -- based on something that just happened. For example, maybe your employee just closed a huge deal or they ran a truly horrible meeting. Maybe they demonstrated a new skill or turned their reports in after you left again. These examples warrant event-driven feedback, and it's worth noting that these are both for praise and for correction.

When giving event-driven feedback (especially if things didn't go well), it's important to give it as soon after the event as you can, but not before you've had a chance to calm down, see the whole picture, and decide what exactly you want to give feedback on. It's also a good idea to ask the employee how they thought the event went so you can make sure you're on the same page.

For example, there was one time I was sitting in on a dress rehearsal for a training one of my employees was going to give later in the week. During the rehearsal, she kept reading her notes, losing her place, garbling some of the concepts in the class, and generally just tanking the dress rehearsal. (I mean it was really awful, maybe a 3 on a scale of 1-10.) It was so awful that I figured she HAD to see things the same way, but I asked just the same because it's my practice.

When I asked her how she thought it went, on a scale of 1-10, she said, "Oh, probably about an 8.5." My jaw hit the floor - how could she not see how truly awful it was? I knew I needed to give her feedback in that moment - especially since the real training was only days away - and that I couldn't let our different points of view derail how I was going to deliver the feedback. So I took a deep breath, focused on the behaviors I wanted to address (reading notes, losing her place, garbling the concepts) and tried to control my face so that she didn't know how strongly I felt about her performance. Because in the end, shaming her for a bad dress rehearsal wasn't going to make the real class go any better, and that's the goal of feedback.

For other tips on making your feedback useful in changing behavior, check out Eight Ways to Make Feedback Useful or schedule some time with me to chat!

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