Leaders: what’s the best kind of feedback to help others grow?

Feedback plays a critical role when it comes to leading others. The most effective kind helps others grow. This kind of feedback can be directly linked to each employee’s performance goals and development path and pave the way for ongoing performance and development-focused conversations. Conversations that connect how an employee is doing or what they may be struggling with, to their goals, as well as what they may need to do more (or less) of, as they continue to grow and evolve.

But what kind of feedback really matters when it comes to supporting the growth and development of others? And what does it look like in practical terms? Start here, and take note of what happens:

  1. Purposeful – Consider your purpose in providing feedback, and tailor your approach accordingly. Do you want to recognize effort, celebrate accomplishment, address challenges or encourage and support an employee who may be struggling? Is this a brief acknowledgement, or a time for a more substantial conversation that invites employee reflection and discovery as they consider how they’re doing? Think clearly about your purpose and act accordingly.
  2. Time-Sensitive – When it comes to feedback, timing really matters. Focus on giving feedback in the moment and doing it on an ongoing basis, rather than saving it up for a later date or an annual performance conversation. When you pay attention to what others are doing and ‘catch them in the act’, you’ll be able to acknowledge them, and their work when it really counts.
  3. Relevant – Feedback is most meaningful when it’s personal and specific. Which means you’ve taken the time to get to know your employees, what they’re working on and what matters to them. For example, when you say to an employee: ‘You did a great job summarizing the key issues and offering a fresh perspective on solutions’ you’ll be acknowledging their unique contribution and the difference they made, rather than offering a simple ‘great job’. Personal and relevant feedback goes a long way towards supporting each employee’s unique growth and development process. It also allows you to make a direct link to their performance and development goals.
  4. Actionable – Truly relevant feedback is actionable! Specific enough for employees to know what they did particularly well (or didn’t), as well as how they might focus their energy and efforts to continue evolving. For example, when an employee is working on improving their project planning skills and they finish an important one, take a little time to share what you noticed them doing well, as well as the areas that will benefit from further work. Test your approach with this question: Will you be giving your employees feedback they can use? Whether your purpose is to encourage, recognize or provide constructive feedback to support continued development and performance, make it specific and relevant to each employee and notice the difference it makes.

When it comes to leading and developing others, focusing on the work to be done is only part of the equation. Equally critical is the work of enabling and inspiring others to succeed. If you want to help others grow, look for the opportunities to use feedback – the right kind of feedback – in all that you do. Focus your feedback on their continued growth and development and watch them thrive.

Michelle Lane

Michelle Lane is a leadership development coach, consultant, and facilitator with 40 years of diverse leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Michelle can be reached at mlane@vibrantleaders.ca.

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