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6 tips to deliver effective feedback in a performance review

At Cosmic Centaurs, we believe that feedback (when delivered effectively) is a gift. In fact, leaders who give honest feedback are 5x more effective and their teams are 3x more engaged. That’s why we are advocates of feedback-sharing sessions, whether it’s 1-on-1s or retrospectives. Sharing feedback is the first step in learning from mistakes, recognizing strengths, and identifying areas of improvement.

However, feedback can be meaningless and even destructive if it is not delivered intentionally and clearly. For example, if the context, tone, or message are not framed effectively, the conversations can be more harmful than helpful.

Performance reviews are an excellent forum to share feedback and create an action plan. Because by design, these sessions are formal and structured, employees are likely to be more engaged and actively listening to your input and advice. Performance reviews play a crucial role in an employee's growth by providing them with constructive feedback, setting clear expectations, and identifying areas for improvement. They help employees align their goals with those of the organization, improve their skills and performance, and build a stronger relationship with their managers, ultimately leading to a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Effective managers are those who take the time to provide relevant and meaningful feedback that impacts performance in the workplace, helping their teams determine the most effective ways to change and grow as a result of the feedback they receive. To help you run high-impact performance review conversations, below are six tips on how to deliver feedback during these sessions:

1. Start with an executive summary

Provide a general overview of the employee performance throughout the reviewed period before diving into the details. This gives employees a sense of where they stand and prepares them for the discussion.

“Overall, you showed significant improvement throughout the year and the ability to work with minimal supervision, and there are a few areas I want to dive into to help you take it to the next level”

2. Ensure feedback is a two-way street

Be explicit about creating a safe space for open exchange and to let employees know that you are open to hearing what they have to say. As employees react, pose open-ended questions to get more insights and share your own viewpoint.

“I would also like to hear from you today. Is there anything you needed from me that I didn’t do? Was there something I could have done better in the last 12 months”

3. Use specific examples and statements

When delivering your objective observations, use examples of when the person exhibited a behavior or skill t. One phrase that helps us is: specific observation, specific issue, specific improvement.

"During project X, I noticed that you were primarily focused on your individual tasks and didn't collaborate effectively with other team members. As a result, the team's progress was slower than expected, and we missed our deadline. Moving forward, it's essential to work collaboratively and communicate effectively with your colleagues to achieve our goals as a team."

4. Strike a balance between positive and negative feedback

Don’t focus only on what went wrong or try to focus on the good for fear that you will upset your employee. Outline specific strengths and areas for improvement. However, be careful not to sandwich constructive criticism between praise. Employees walk away with the positive affirmations they want to hear, rather than the shortcomings that need improvement.

"In the last quarter, your sales figures were exceptional, and you showed great initiative in identifying new leads and closing deals. However, I noticed that your communication with clients could be improved, and some of them have expressed dissatisfaction with the level of follow-up they received. While I appreciate your enthusiasm, it's crucial to balance it with ensuring that clients feel heard and understood. Going forward, I encourage you to focus on building stronger relationships with clients by improving your communication and follow-up skills.”

5. Be objective to reduce bias

Provide feedback based on what someone does, not who they are. Your feedback should come from a place of observation.

Don’t say: “I feel like you're not engaged in the way you were when you joined.”

Instead, say: “What I saw during that exchange was you being resistant to diverging opinions.”

6. Coach rather than criticize

Criticism leaves the employee down and disengaged. Make sure to always use constructive rather than destructive criticism and suggest how the employee can improve.

“You've been all by yourself for the past month, so we haven't seen you engaging much or participating during our meetings. I can see requiring some focused time to concentrate on your work, but when it comes to collaboration and brainstorming, we really need your expertise. Let’s start by devoting a couple of extra hours a week to working with the rest of the team. Would you be willing to do so?”

If you need help setting and structuring your performance evaluation process, book a 1-on-1 consultation with us today. You can also check out our website to learn more about how we can help you.


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