As a business leader, a very important responsibility is providing feedback to employees, including corrective feedback. Corrective feedback is feedback that points out areas where an employee needs to improve their performance or behavior. Giving corrective feedback can be a delicate process that requires tact and sensitivity and one that requires well established expectations for performance and behavior.
As leaders, we can be hesitant at times to provide corrective feedback that can be critical to an employee’ s performance. This hesitancy is often grounded in uncertainty and fear. This can be fear of conflict, fear of judgement, fear of being
wrong, or simply fear of being uncertain of what the reaction will be. Yet, without this feedback, they don’t have the insight or information necessary to correct their performance which could lead to better outcomes and opportunities.
As a parent, or when tasked with the responsibility to “care” for another, we tend to lean in to offering feedback on what we believe is in their best interest in spite of any potential uncertainty or fear of conflict. We do this out of a deep concern for their wellbeing and growth. In his book “Change the World”, Robert Quinn introduces a term of “Object Reference”. This term refers to the change in our behavior predicated on the fear of being judged. We allow the possibility of judgement alter our willingness to take risks, be vulnerable, or simply stand up for what we believe is right.
Object reference has little impact on us as caregivers, simply because internally we are being other focused – serving their best interest. But in the employee relationship, our focus may turn inward and make the issue of corrective feedback/potential conflict about the implications to us rather than on serving them. If we can reframe this difficult but necessary leadership action to minimize “object reference” then engaging in it may become a bit more natural for those who hesitate.
In addition to reframing some of the head-trash that can accompany providing corrective feedback. Here are some tips and techniques to help you provide corrective feedback in a way that is effective and well-received.
1. Provide the feedback promptly: The sooner you provide feedback after an issue arises, the more effective it will be. While considering contextual issues i.e. public or private, delaying feedback can make it less effective, as the employee may not remember the specifics of the situation or may have already developed bad habits.
2. Be specific: When giving feedback, be as specific as possible. Use concrete examples of the behavior or performance that needs to be improved and ideally what “success” should look like. This helps the employee understand what they need to change and how they can do so.
3. Focus on the behavior, not personality: When giving feedback, focus on the employee's behavior or performance, rather than their personality or character. Avoid using judgmental language that can come across as accusatory or personal.
4. Be objective: Provide feedback that is objective and based on observable facts. Avoid making assumptions or drawing conclusions based on limited information. Stick to the facts and provide specific examples.
5. Be constructive: When giving corrective feedback, be constructive and offer suggestions for improvement. Provide guidance on how the employee can improve their performance or behavior. This can help the employee feel more empowered and motivated to improve.
6. Listen actively: Don’t get stuck in your script. Listen actively to the employee's response to your feedback. This can help you better understand their perspective and can help you tailor your feedback to be more effective.
7. Establish clear goals: Ensure that you and the employee agree on clear goals and the steps forward to address any unseen or unanticipated barriers to progress.
8. Follow up: Follow up with the employee after providing corrective feedback. This can help you gauge their progress and provide additional guidance if needed.
9. Be consistent: Consistency is key when providing feedback. Make sure you provide feedback to all employees in a fair and consistent manner. This can help build trust and credibility with your team.
Its reported that most employees don’t get the necessary performance feedback which is the highest contributor to subpar performance. While there is a reported hesitancy in delivering corrective feedback by business leaders, employees overwhelmingly want the feedback to ensure alignment with expectations and provide insight into the opportunity for growth. With these strategies, you can help your team improve their performance and achieve their goals. Remember to be specific, objective, constructive, and consistent in your feedback, and listen actively to your employees' responses.