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How to Give Quality Feedback When You’re a New Manager

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

If you’ve been promoted recently, you’re probably determined to do things differently from how other managers do them. You want to remember your roots as a worker bee forced to please the boss. You don’t want to micromanage or discourage people.  So you may avoid giving people any constructive feedback at all until you have a few months under your belt as a manager.

Wrong approach.

Here’s what you need to do instead:

1. Assure people you will be giving frequent feedback.

People actually want way more feedback than they are getting. Everyone, especially young and hard-to-retain superstars constantly say in employee engagement surveys such as Gallup that they are discouraged because they are NOT getting enough feedback. And it’s not just that they aren’t getting enough positive pats on the back. 60% are saying that they aren’t getting enough critical feedback that can help them improve! So tell them you will be giving feedback weekly (or even more often) and deliver on that promise.

2. Invite their feedback to you in every feedback conversation.

The feedback culture you want to create is really an exchange.  You are coaching them and they are making suggestions to you about what you can do to help them reach their goals faster and smarter.

3. Envision success for everyone to focus your feedback.

Spend a few hours imagining the team as wildly successful. Record on paper your images of what each individual and the group as a whole will be doing and saying in the future—say 6-9 months ahead on your calendar. Imagine recognition by customers and celebration by company leaders.  Now, what capabilities will each person need to develop in order to achieve the vision? Use these notes when picking out the most important and doable feedback topics for each person.

4. Invest plenty of time to clarify and re-clarify goals.

You will increase their buy-in for feedback if you and they are on the same page about what outcomes are expected. And you will decrease the chances that they will be confused or discouraged later. The bosses people hate are the ones who can’t explain what they want but are quick to criticize what they don’t want employees to do. You are a boss who does explain what you want.

5. Give lots of positive feedback, but make sure it is specific and accurate.

You want to encourage people, but you don’t want to come across as a parent figure who praises every little thing they do. It won’t be good for either you or them if they become dependent on you for their fixes of self-worth. On the other hand, positive feedback that resonates with what they know to be a strength or a hard-earned accomplishment will gain you credibility with your employees. If they feel that you “get them,” they are more likely to believe you when you point out improvement needs.

6. Make feedback so helpful and frequent that it becomes a no-big-deal experience.Although your first feedback discussions with people may need to be scheduled half-hour meetings, you and they will get used to nonthreatening hallway chats in which you are suggesting a new approach they can use with a customer, how to expedite a meeting, or fast ways they can acquire technical knowledge. They will start to trust you. The trust gets big when they know they can count on you to bring up problems and never surprise them later with feedback you’ve withheld.

7. Act on the feedback they give you.

As you ask each team member how you can better help them achieve their goals, how you can support them, and how you can help make it a better workplace, acknowledge the value of their suggestions. And ACT on any and all feedback that makes sense as quickly as possible to demonstrate to everyone that you believe in the power of feedback.

In giving more, rather than less, honest, timely feedback, you and the whole team will discover that feedback is a big plus and you as a leader will enjoy huge success.

Published, September, 2014, on Brazen Life

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