Is Your Feedback Constructive?

Most managers would agree that one of the most challenging tasks for a manger is to give constructive feedback and ensure the team member take appropriate action. Effective solutions to such challenges are addressed in our Performance Appraisal Training and Leadership Training programs. The challenge is not so much in giving the feedback but in making it constructive. It is common to hear feedback that is vague and contradictory. For example: “Shyam you have put in a lot of work on this project, but I feel….” This is a classic feedback gaffe. While the first part of the sentence is an appreciation, the second part is a criticism. Feedback that uses ‘but’, ‘however’ and ‘although’ mostly evoke mixed feelings and spoils the chances of taking corrective actions. So, how does one really give constructive feedback?
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A. Clark
Effective Leadership involves understanding why people resist critical feedback. It is then, lot easier to give constructive feedback. Neuroscientists have found that our brain is designed to resist negative feedback. Our brain acts as a defense mechanism and protects us from threats to our ego and self-esteem.
The main objective of performance appraisal is to help people grow and develop. So create an environment of discovery where people discover their areas of improvement. Here are few steps that can help you give constructive feedback, especially during performance appraisals.
Be in control of your own emotions. This will help in giving feedback that does not come across as a threat.
1. Prepare the recipient’s mind for feedback. It is important here to understand the science behind resistance to negative feedback. The amygdala, a very small part of the brain near the thalamus, hijacks the rational brain as it senses danger and triggers the fight, flight or freeze response. In order for the recipient not to perceive danger, it is important for the person to get the permission from the recipient to give the feedback. This prepares the mind to receive the information without being threatened.
2. Use the technique of feed-forward in your performance dialogue. Before giving feedback ask the recipient these questions:
1. What are your thoughts on how you handled the situation?
2. What did you do well?
3. What could you have done better?
Responding to questions help them overcome amygdala hijack and gets the pre-frontal neo-cortex, the thinking part of the brain, to respond. This ensures that they are now ready for feedback.
4. The feedback should focus only on the area that needs improvement and not on the person. Avoid judgmental language and display empathy with the body language and tone of voice that shows concern. It is important to avoid sarcasm while giving feedback.
5. End the feedback with a mutually agreed upon action plan. Here again, it is important to allow the recipient to design his own action plan as he/she has to own it and commit to the actions. The person giving feedback can ask questions that will enable the recipient to explore various options.
Managers will lead teams more adroitly only if they realize that an open mind is a must for receiving constructive feedback; the objective being, to create an opportunity for people to improve and grow.Understanding the brain science of constructive feedback will help people move seamlessly from a state of impasse to a state of insight. David Rock, in his article, ‘Managing with the Brain in Mind’ explains this with great thoroughness. Being insightful allows effective action planning. Implementing the action plan extensively, forms a habit. Giving constructive feedback is an integral part of our Leadership Training program to ensure their team cultivates productive habits.
For more such interesting articles please see the link below:

Empathy – A Necessary Trait

Shifting Limiting Mindsets – A Leadership Essential

Authenticity – A Leadership Essential

Three Steps to a great Performance Dialogue

Three Steps to a great Performance Dialogue

In general people tend to think that it is the person in the performance review ‘hot seat’ that has a lot on his or her mind since an entire year’s worth of work is going to be scrutinized and judged in a few minutes. But this is far from the truth. The manager who has to conduct the performance review of the employee also carries a significant weight on his shoulders. In an employee performance review situation, the review manager acts as the representative emissary of the company. He bears the burden of proving to the company that the employee being reviewed can be considered reliable, further invested in or even retained with the company. This can be a daunting task depending on various factors. However there are several things a review manager can do to have an efficient Performance Dialogue:

  1. Department/Company Expectations – Understanding exactly what is expected of this employee’s job and role is probably the best place to start in a conventional performance review. Beginning with this basic in mind will help gauge if the employee is doing justice to the role he or she was appointed for. Sometimes the actual performance of an employee may vary drastically from the credentials of his or her resume upon which their hiring was based. If there is such a gap, it is the review manager’s job to ensure it continues to shrink.
  2. Potential for Investment – The review manager also has the task of scrutinizing the employee’s capabilities with additional responsibilities. In today’s competitive market, industries want to reap the maximum benefit from the smallest ‘penny’ invested. And this ideology bleeds down all the way to the lowest employee on the totem pole. If the employee cannot do a little more than the job he was appointed for, he is too expensive to keep.
  3. Minimizing Deficiencies – The hardest part of a performance review, even for the manager facilitating it, is scrutinizing the employee’s job performance for flaws or deficiencies. Even the smallest errors on the job can cost companies in the long run if not immediately. And so the name of the game then is ‘damage control’. Identifying the problems, coming up with a solution and making ways to execute it flawlessly is what this stage is all about.

 Performance Appraisal Training is an important endeavour that every company must judiciously look into for the careful gauging and analysis of their health through reviewing their individual employees’ performances. Companies of all caliber, including Fortune 500 companies understand the significance of adapting to make this happen: Make Performance Appraisals Change Friendly

For more information on conducting efficient performance appraisals, refer to these articles:

  1. Performance Appraisals that Works!
  2. Proactive Performance Analysis

Performance Appraisals that Works!

 Soft Skills Training

“It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”Noel Coward

It is a common practice for most managers just before a performance dialogue happens, to advice their team on how to go about their self-appraisals. In one of my first appraisals, 15 years back, I was asked by my manager to sit along-side him and follow his lead in marking the appropriate boxes. Out of the outlandishly long list of 32 parameters, he rated me as “Meeting Expectations” in 24 parameters, “Needs Improvement” in 5 and interestingly “Exceeded Expectations” in 3. I was then asked to rate exactly the same on my self-appraisal sheet. He never gave me time to read the parameters. He shook hands with me and said “Congrats! The management has concurred with me to give you a 2.5% hike in salary with a 25% hike in sales target for the next year”.  Within a month’s time I had moved out of that organization. The reason behind my exodus from that organization is not because of the spectacular hike offered (which I must add I graciously rejected) but because my manager would not let me know the 3 parameters on which I was rated as “Exceeding Expectations”.

For the next few years until I became a manager and learnt the essence of Performance Appraisal, I rated every parameter as “Exceeded Expectations” on the self-appraisal. This led to numerous livid exchanges with my managers and impacted my future performances.

As I re-evaluated my career growth, I was plagued by these questions – What is performance appraisal?  What is the importance of performance appraisal? Is performance review a stage for employees to blow their own trumpet?

I recently came across an acronym “PERFORM” that best describes the key elements of Performance Appraisals.

P – Purpose – Everyone involved in an appraisal for an individual should be clear on the purpose

E – Empowerment – At the end of the appraisal the appraise should feel empowered to face the challenges ahead

R – Relationship – Appraisals should be used as another platform to build effective relationships

F – Flexibility – Should elicit flexibility in operation for the year ahead to reach organizational business objectives

O – Optimal Performance – Clarify what constitutes optimal performance

R – Recognition & Rewards – Discuss rewards & recognitions that the individual is entitled to for what they have done and what they would get for what they are expected to do in the coming year

M – Morale – Elevate the morale of the employee to ensure greater productivity in the year ahead

What are the best performance appraisal methods that companies adopt today?

The idea of an effective performance appraisal is to have a flexible structure that describes job expectations with clarity, a process to capture employee performance, a method to evaluate the performance and to capture gaps if any that can be addressed for development, which is in line with organizational goals. MMM Training Solutions conducts Performance Appraisal Training that focuses on two key areasdeveloping the skills to identify both the strengths and challenge areas of the appraisee and to give empowering feedback.

(Read the article on ‘A directive to Effective Performance Appraisal’  for better understanding of Performance Appraisals)