Leadership Lessons #5 – 10 Tips for Giving Feedback

Everyone at YES Prep is driven to get our students college ready and improve their college persistence rates.  In order to do this, it’s imperative that all of the adults in our charter school system are ready to both give and receive feedback.  Here are some of our leaders’ top tips for giving people feedback.

Do it ASAP
.  No one wants to walk into a formal evaluation meeting to hear a laundry list of what they’ve been doing wrong for several months.  Their reaction is inevitably, ‘Why didn’t you tell me this before?’  So in the best interest of the person and your organization, just do it.  Then maybe you can cut off that laundry list before things start adding up.

Keep some perspective.  Sometimes the mistakes people make or bad habits they have can really bother us, especially if the ‘right’ way seems obvious to us.  Remember, though, that people are often unaware of the problem until someone tells them.  And there’s also a chance that their mistake is due to a lack of skill or training.  If you’re getting frustrated, keep this perspective in mind in order to let go of any emotions before communicating your feedback.

Growth as the goal.  As you plan your conversation, think through not only the change you want to see in their job performance, but how the person can grow from the change.  This ensures people won’t feel nit-picked and help them feel more invested in the change that needs to happen.

Let them react.  As managers, we would love it if every time we gave someone feedback they immediately thanked us, apologized for the problems, and immediately implemented the feedback.  But some of our best people might not always have this picture-perfect reaction.  Try to give people a little latitude in the moment.  Even if people get a little defensive or seem to clam up, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dismissing the feedback. 

No tip-toeing.  If we’re worried about how people will take our feedback or we’re nervous about giving it, we may soften our facial expressions and tone and come across like we feel bad about the situation.  This can send the message that the recipient should also feel bad or sad about the situation, versus feeling the professional drive to change we actually want to see.  It can also provoke a more defensive reaction than if we’d kept the tone matter-of-fact and professional.

Make requests not assumptions.  If we want to see a specific behavior happen as a result of our feedback, then make that request instead of assuming that you’re getting your point across.  For example, if you want them to be more prepared for meetings, instead of just saying, ‘It’s hard for everyone on our team when you’re not prepared,’ include a specific request like, ‘Can you commit to coming with your student data and 3 ideas for Spring field trips?’  By doing this they know exactly what to do and they also have to answer yes or no, making the commitment and next steps (or lack thereof) clear to both of you.

Carry your weight.  Lack of skill or training is often at the root of performance problems, so make sure that when you enter into the feedback conversation, you’re prepared to provide or find whatever training may be necessary to solve the issue.

Listen.  We can learn a lot about our people during feedback conversations, so make sure that in addition to getting your message across, you’re listening to what they have to say, as well.  You may gain valuable insights into concerns, needs, desires, and mindsets that could have important implications moving forward.

Follow-up.  Depending on the situation, the follow-up could be formal or informal, but make sure to do it.  If people are implementing the feedback, they’ll appreciate you noticing and letting them know.  If they aren’t implementing it, without quick follow-up the necessary change may not happen.

Don’t forget the praise!  The better people feel about their work, the more inspired and motivated they are to improve.  Heap on the praise whenever you can and watch the awesome impact it has on their growth!  Read our previous post on .

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