Thursday, 7 January 2010

We all suck at Feedbacks - Part 3/4 How to give Feedback

Continuing our series…
We as Managers hold a primary responsibility of seeing growth for others. We see this growth for our colleagues, employees, Team and organization. In handling this responsibility we have to ensure that the set objectives are compared with the actual results and to match both of these we provide feedback to our employees or Team members… Consolidating feedback as one element would be a mistake so I would treat feedback as Positive Feedback, Negative feedback and constructive feedback the manager has to give. Remember the first 2 types of feedback can be fatal if not given in the right way and order. A constructive feedback would be the one that would be a mix of both + blended with a futuristic approach to grow collective and personally. So let’s begin our quest to find out how not to mess up when we provide our feedback…

Positive Feedback
Usually managers think that praising someone is the easiest task, honestly it is not. Just telling someone you are doing great is not working well enough for various reasons…
Once a Supervisor who was pissed off with a rail track maintenance engineer attended a manager motivation seminar, inspired he decided that he will see how praising an employee worked and went to the engineer and said “You are doing really great, keep up the good work; it’s good to have people like you in the team”. The next question the engineer asked was “Are you also giving me a raise?”

Another occasion a very excited boss went to an employee and started praising him. Confused about a untimely praise the employee went and put down his resignation with a fear that he was going to be fired.

Positive feedback has to come in right time and with right words... If you just go and say someone “What a nice job you have done” may not be the right word if said when someone recently had created a blunder. As managers we have to do the following when we give positive feedback:Again I would iterate “Feedback is a continuous process, As managers our duty is to give timely and frequent feedbacks

1. Choose the time
Pick the time when the morale of the employee definitely need a boost. Ideally the time after a good job done, a deal won and implemented, a release done and no issues from it is the right time. Never be hasty in giving positive feedback. There are 2 reasons to it:
A. Early or Late feedback may not go with the same flair as a slightly delayed one would.
B. Just after a good job done the person would be in a relaxing / parting mode and your feedback may just not hit the right angle.
The Development Manager sent an email calling for a party that weekend after a big release was done.. only later to realize that the next day of the release caused blunderers and a lot of issues from customers which the Team spent fixing all through the week and later had to roll back. Time is the key factor.. So a feedback has to go in the appropriate time.

2. Choose the incidents
Just going and praising someone may not be good. The person may not value it or the message would be misinterpreted. Ideally when you turn to give a feedback make sure that you collect incidents at work off work that can help you build a great way to give a positive feedback also helping employees realize how and when they good. I maintain a Project Portfolio for every engineer in the Team… Every Project they work on, the hit and the miss. The learning’s from the Project for them, for me and for the Team. This helps during the feedback time when it is easier to tell someone
“Time is a key in support, and as a support engineer the reaction on LIV-XXX has being very helpful. It not only helped XXX customer go with their release on time but also helped us build a good relation with them”

3. Praise with clarity
A lot of positive feedbacks go without clarity. We Managers mix feedbacks always with Objectives… as in when we have to say “You did good at XXX” we say “You did at XXX , let’s do the same with YYY” this can cause a confusion.. it can be treated as an appreciation to what is done and also may be treated as a comment of what is not done and how to do it good next time. We have to be careful when giving this feedback that we don’t mix up Objectives and Goals with the praise or positive statement.
Clarity can also be bought by giving more preference to the actions than the person.

4. Bring Objectives in as a compliment
They say that feedback is the right time to give preview of goals too. Make sure that once you give the positive view of the past give a positive view of future. This makes feedback go stronger.. it is always treated as “Where I came from, What I did and where I would go”

5. Expose the pitfalls and improvements
Every Positive step is a step to improve. Similarly every positive feedback is a notification that you have to improve. With the positive feedback expose the pitfalls and the short comings; this helps the person understand the elements of improvement. Only praise is not the idea of a positive feedback, blend it with attorney of improvements.

6. During a feedback session , keep this part in the start and the end
I recently read a tweet that said “If you begin and end well you are sure to do well” Yes.. keep a pleasant beginning and end. So that when you enter the room and go out of the room the impression is positive. It’s the beginning and the end that will also drive how you run through the session. The last thing to do on a feedback session is to start with “You are an Idiot and did not do X, Y and Z” and end with “I hope you will do well here onwards”

I believe feedback being a mass topic in itself we should split this version into 3… we talk about How to give positive feedback today, How to give negative feedback next and then we mix the 2 to generate how to give a Constructive feedback.
I hope you would like the post and the series and would feed me back on what I have to do more.