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ConstructiveFeedbackQuestion: Annual performance reviews are coming up. As a manager, I know that it’s my responsibility to give both positive and constructive feedback. But giving constructive feedback is not something I’m very good at. I often find myself making excuses for my team members’ underperformance. Do you have any suggestions for given constructive feedback instead of mixed messages?


Answer: Rather than thinking of feedback in categories of either positive or constructive, think of giving effective feedback.  Effective feedback is given as close to the occurrence as possible following both positive and negative behavior.

When giving performance reviews this year, tell each of your team members that you will be practicing giving effective feedback throughout the year.  Here are a few tips to help you deliver on your commitment:

1. Get your emotions under control. While effective constructive feedback is delivered as close to the observed incident as possible, if the situation is heated, schedule a meeting for the next day. Here’s a helpful article on The Productive Way to Manage Your Emotions at Work.

2. Be specific. Effective feedback is specific. Instead of saying,”Liz, you’re doing a great job,” catch Liz in the act of doing something right then let her know how how she helped the team.  For more, read Ken Blanchard’s article called Catch People Doing Something Right.

3. Don’t do all of the talking. After you have told your team member what specific, recent actions were inappropriate, and why, stop talking. Give him a chance to respond and ask clarifying questions. Read more on the subject in this Harvard Business Review article, Leadership is a Conversation.

With practice, giving effective feedback will make you a better manager, and make your team more productive.  If you do it right, you’ll never have to save up a year’s worth of constructive criticism in annual performance reviews again!

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