one way to give your staff more feedback

If you’re like most managers, you probably don’t give your team members enough feedback. Or you give plenty of praise but shy away from talking giving corrections or criticism … or, on the other end of the spectrum, you give far more criticism than praise. If any of these describe you, you could stand to make feedback – positive and negative – a more regular part of your conversations with your staff.

But even when you intend to get better about giving more regular, frequent feedback, the intention can be lost in the rush of day-to-day work … which means that you’ll be much more likely to follow through on that intention if you have a system for keeping track of the different pieces of feedback that you want to give to individual staff members. The reality is that you’re unlikely to remember all of it otherwise.

You should of course give quick thoughts on the spot when you can, but often feedback won’t be urgent or will require a longer or more private discussion than that allows for. Plus, having a way to record your thoughts the rest of the time can:

  • remind you of feedback you want to give and might otherwise forget
  • nudge you to realize you need to adjust the balance of the feedback you’re giving (if, for example, it shows you that you’re giving far more critical feedback than positive feedback)
  • help you see overall patterns and themes that you can use to give an overall summary message when you’re talking about the big picture (such as during performance evaluations)

Whatever you use, it doesn’t have to be a complicated system. Often just keeping an ongoing Word doc is all you need, or a chart with each team member’s name on it and room to record your thoughts below. The key to do it effectively is less about the specific system you choose and more about just committing to doing it, and then following through.

It could even look as simple as something like this:

  • Jane:
    • great job presenting to the board – fielded tricky questions with poise and confidence!
    • company she referred for web revamp wasn’t quite right; touch base on criteria
    • talking points draft – concrete examples were really compelling
  • Fergus
    • bumps in meeting logistics – talk through how to approach next time
    • heard great praise from VP about his helpfulness

From there, you’d consult your notes ahead of one-on-ones so you remember to bring up anything you’ve put in your tracker. And don’t erase as you go – keep your old notes in there, so that you’re able to spot patterns, both positive and negative.

If you’re not already doing something like this – and if your honest assessment would be that you could up your feedback frequency – give it a shot. It’s almost sure to result in a culture of far more regular, normalized feedback on your team.

I originally published this at Intuit QuickBase’s blog.

{ 4 comments… read them below }

  1. Kira*

    I love this idea. I always kept my own notes thoughout the year of projects I’d been praised for/ initiated/ excelled at. Then at the end of the year I’d want to bring them up in my performance review. But my supervisors always seemed to forget everything except the Big Thing that happened that year, and only discussed that one thing in my reviews.

  2. Jaguar*

    So either too much praise and not enough criticism, too much criticism or not enough praise, or not enough of both. Just be constantly handing out criticism and praise!

    More seriously, though, I just read The Undoing Project and it has an interesting anecdote about the effectiveness of praise and criticism as it relates to reversion to the mean. The Israeli army was trying to figure out if it was more helpful to praise a pilot’s good runs or criticise their bad ones. Through trial and error, they found out criticism had a better impact on performance – in fact, when criticised, pilots tended to improve, while when praised, they tended to get worse! What one of the central characters of the book found, however, was that the pilots were in fact just reverting to the mean – particularly good or particularly bad runs were statistical outliers and not representative of their natural performance levels, and they were always going to revert after a good run or a bad run – the praise or criticism was besides the point. As it relates to most jobs, this probably has not as much effect as outlier performance and reversion to the mean has a dramatically smaller effect to the point that communicating expectations is a significantly more important factor in deciding how to use praise and criticism. But it is an important thing to think about to avoid getting on someone’s case when they had a bad day or getting frustrated when praising someone after a good day didn’t seem to lock in a higher standard of output.

  3. Katie ElderBerry*

    I love this idea. I just set up a log for myself; it’s an excel spreadsheet with a tab for each of my employees and space for dated comments.

  4. Anne (with an "e")*

    I transitioned from OldJob where the employees were elavaluated on a regular basis with a end of year review to NewJob about 18 months ago. At NewJob the employees are not evaluated formally at all, not ever. It is extremely frustrating. I like to think that I am doing a good job, however, there is never any feedback of any sort. I have never been praised nor criticized at NewJob. It is driving me crazy.

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