Article: Feedback skills 1 – the manager’s toolkit

The ability to deliver feedback to your team is vital for business, management and leadership and the way you deliver feedback will directly affect how it’s received. Valid and important points can be lost when the recipient is reacting to your manner, not responding to your message.

Giving confident and effective feedback is a SNIPP: Specific, Neutral, Immediate, Practical and Private.

Specific – one thing at a time, focussed and clear, agreeing the way forward.

Make your point – but there’s no need to hammer it home until the recipient is upset, offended and unable to respond intellectually. Going on about the recipient’s multiple failings will batter self-esteem, knock confidence and humiliate. It’s akin to bullying and will hinder development. Keep it short and simple.

Neutral – feedback should address current behaviour, not personality.

Remembering not what you said, but how they felt in their conversation with you will colour how they see you and your reputation and relationship with them can be affected. If you’re angry and frustrated, your feedback will be emotionally driven and may be perceived as an attack.

Show courtesy and consideration for dignity. Strong language feels threatening – and we react to threats.

Be ‘fight / flight / freeze’ aware – some people’s reaction to a perceived threat will be to defend or attack back, to walk away, burst into tears or have a panic attack, or to be unable even to think straight or speak up. Their reaction is not a fault – it’s their way of dealing with threats and it may not be the same way as yours.

Immediate – tackle it as soon as possible, to stop problems escalating.

If you need to, take some time to calm down and think your strategy through first. It will be more effective than exploding at them. But ensure you do deal with the issue and don’t let it drag on. It’s only fair to the recipient who may have no idea there’s a problem. Suddenly springing a bad mid-year or end of year appraisal on a team member because you didn’t do something about it when you had time is unfair and will lead to complaints. If you’re nervous about having the difficult conversation, some confident communication, assertiveness and coaching skills training will help you feel more comfortable and effective.

Practical – the recipient has to be able to do something as a result of the feedback.

Think ‘stop – start – continue’. Either they need to stop doing whatever it is, start doing what you need them to – or carry on, because whatever it is, it works! Offer help and resources where needed, agreeing objectives and setting up regular reviews.

Private – losing face is humiliating and embarrassing.

If others can hear you, the recipient’s main focus will be on ‘what must others be thinking – pity, embarrassment, glee, scorn?’ – not on your message. Keep it private.

Getting into the habit of visibly calling people into your office for a little chat will mean people quickly come to recognise the walk of shame, so be discreet.

And, of course, praise, thank-yous and congratulations are developmental feedback, too. Positive feedback may also be best in private – not everyone likes to be the centre of attention. Know your people.

Get into the habit of giving frequent and regular feedback, whether positive or developmental and, of course, be a confident and receptive role model prepared to request, receive and respond to feedback yourself.

Next: Six tips for giving personal feedback