The ability to give great feedback is one of the most underrated skills in business. So much emphasis is put on other technical and soft skills, and even where feedback is prioritized as a skill it tends to remain in the rather limited realm of ‘positive feedback’.
While all feedback should be constructive, the ability to tactfully and helpfully flag up negative trends, mistakes, or out-and-out failure is crucial if a business is to continue growing and not become trapped in a cycle of error.
The trick to negative feedback is humility. Nobody likes to be told they’re wrong by someone who thinks they themselves are infallible, and your feedback skills won’t develop unless you in turn welcome feedback on your reviewing prowess.
Even if you’re the boss, it doesn’t mean you’re the only person who should give negative feedback, and ensuring that your employees have a sense of mutual responsibility can make it feel less like you’re pulling rank when the time comes to confront someone about their performance.
Instead, try holding regular feedback sessions, setting some boundaries that do not exclude negative feedback, and developing your company’s feedback process. Encourage your staff members to begin by criticizing themselves, as this can reveal unexpected underlying causes and prevent individuals from feeling like they are being attacked.
Ask plenty of questions, and be specific in your own points and expectations. Use numbers and targets to illustrate where things have gone wrong and to establish paths to improvement. This makes progress measurable and individuals accountable.
And close your feedback sessions by asking for feedback on the meeting itself. Make sure your points have been understood and that you are doing a good job. This is a part of that humility we were talking about.
This new infographic from Headway Capital provides a complete guide to developing your negative feedback skills. Integrate these ideas into your management style and they can become an important part of your toolbox.