The Art of Effective Feedback

You know you have to give feedback. Here's how to make it the most effective.

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By Gwen Moran

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In any given office, you're probably going to hear the word "feedback" dozens of times a day. People are "looking forward to your feedback" or promising to "get you feedback asap." We all know that good feedback is essential to cultivating the behaviors and outcomes we want while correcting those we don't, but what makes some people more effective at feedback than others? There are five key elements of effective feedback.

Integrate. Giving feedback should be "a natural part of your workday," says human resources expert Patti Johnson, founder of PeopleResults, an Irving, Texas, consulting firm. Give frequent feedback as you go about your day, recognizing good work or performance while you're in the moment. If you see behavior that needs correcting, pulling aside your employee and doing it on the spot makes it more effective.

Related: Office Etiquette: The Rules of Saying Thank You

"If you wait until a performance review to tell someone they've been doing something wrong for months, you risk losing their trust. They think, 'Why didn't you tell me sooner?'" she says.

Calibrate. You have to get to know your people and understand what kind of feedback works for each. Being too detail-laden with some people may make them think you're micromanaging, but not being specific enough may not get your point across. Observe how a gentle redirect works versus a more in-depth discussion. Then, adjust your approach as individually as you can to get the best performance.

Educate. Use your feedback as an opportunity to share why you want things done a certain way or why you value some systems or actions over others. Explain how this fits into the bigger organizational goals and how the employee plays an important role, Johnson says. For example, if you are trying to get more employees using your customer relationship management system, explain how their contributions make the data more up-to-date, which leads to better customer service and a more stable, growth-oriented company. When they see how they fit into the process, the feedback becomes more effective, she says.

Escalate. If you're giving feedback and it's just not getting through, it's time to take more serious action. If after two or three corrections, an employee's still engaging in poor behavior or performance, it's time to have a sit-down to discuss the issues more specifically. It's also critical to keep your feedback respectful. If you're too upset or angry to do so, walk away and give feedback after you've cooled down, she says.

Motivate. Feedback should include positive as well as negative commentary, Johnson says. If you're just spewing a barrage of negative criticism, you'll be less effective. Congratulate and give kudos publicly, which makes employees feel good and can also motivate others to better understand the performance for which you're striving.

Related: How to Gain Good Feedback From Your College Classmates

Gwen Moran

Writer and Author, Specializing in Business and Finance

GWEN MORAN is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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