Giving your high performing people feedback can be a daunting task. Even the most accomplished managers and leaders have occasions where they think hard before offering constructive feedback to their best people. Managers fear upsetting the delicate ego and losing the very performance that makes the individual one of their top talent.
So how do you give feedback to someone who is probably making more money than you or performing at their given task better than everybody else?
Firstly, let’s confirm an important context. The quality of your relationship with the person you are offering performance feedback to, is critical. This is assuming you have a relationship that is based on trust. That is, the person trusts your agenda to help them win.
The objective for a manager is to move the conversation on from a ‘chat’ and your opinion, to constructive feedback and coach superior performance. Helping your best people think things out for themselves will ensure they own the resulting changes needed.
Feedback to a person who is one of your best and competent ‘talent’ will be different to a less capable individual. You’ll likely use more questions, less tell.
Let’s assume in your work you’ll have one of these scenarios. It could be dealing with a piece of creative content, a sales call or how a person manages one of their staff. How do you review?
What’s the goal?
Feedback without a goal is simply an opinion. Both of you need to know what the goal was. e.g. “was it to land the order or to do a fact find?” “What was the content piece there to do?” “What was the presentation hoping to achieve?”
Clearly understanding the goal will ensure the next questions are constructive.
This is where you try to ascertain which of the component work parts helped get closer to the goal. You are hoping to get specific facts on what they consider helped them achieve the goal. Questions include, “what did you do that got you closer to getting information from the client.” “What parts of the content piece made the audience more engaged”. Or, “what specifically went well in your staff meeting?”
The positives need to be specific and linked to achieving the overall goal.
What didn’t work?
Using the same approach as above ask questions to ascertain what didn’t work so well. “What was it that may have stopped you getting the information you needed from the client?” “What part of the presentation took you away from your message?”
So many feedback sessions become lost in long discussions about negatives and stop at this point, leaving those negatives in the air. There is little to show a sense of progression. There’s no harm in you summarising what’s gone well again.
What’s next and when?
At this point it’s time to determine what will be done differently from now on. “What specifically would be done (differently or otherwise) before the next client meeting?” “How would you create the content piece next time?”
You have an opportunity to help your talent look at options and their commitment to making a change. “When do you think you’ll need to do that by?”
How can I help?
Assuming you are coaching a competent experienced person, it’s likely they are already working out what they want to do in order to move forward. The question, “is there anything I can do to help?” is very powerful in demonstrating your support. Be sure to deliver!
I’m offering a little process, but it must be packaged in the language, style and approach that is genuine for you and your colleague. You will support your best talent to see clearly what’s helping them achieve the desired results.
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Dirk is a strategic media consultant who works with broadcast and digital media owners to create company wide strategic vision. His expertise spans brand strategy, content, editorial, product development. He has expertise in large team management, coaching leadership and creative talent across a broad suite of media platforms.