Being a leader is a tough job. One must master dozens of skills, including leading by example. Perhaps one of the most challenging skills to master is the art of feedback. Managers and leaders alike have to provide feedback to their employees. However, a strong leader knows how to provide constructive feedback instead of harmful criticism.

Effective employees know and understand their strengths and weaknesses. According to a study conducted by Gallup, employees who received feedback faced a reduced turnover risk. In other words, they were more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to seek outside opportunities.

Different Types of Feedback

There are many different types of feedback, and understanding what they are (and how they are best applied) is the first step in this process. The best feedback is constructive – providing helpful advice on how to improve while not becoming overly negative. For a more detailed approach, there is always Kevin Eikenberry’s four types of feedback:

  • Negative feedback: Feedback on past performance, usually commenting on what went wrong.
  • Positive feedback: Feedback on past performance focuses on what went right.
  • Negative feedforward: Comments on what should be changed in the future.
  • Positive feedforward: Comments on what works and should not be changed in the future.

Have a Purpose

It can be tempting to begin a conversation with an employee as the need arises – and there’s nothing wrong with doing so. However, one should always strive to have a purpose when offering feedback. What goals are you trying to achieve with this meeting (planned or impromptu)? Additionally, ask yourself if this feedback is relevant to those goals. 

Provide Actionable Feedback

When providing feedback, it is beneficial to open the door for improvement while doing so. This means providing actionable feedback: feedback that helps employees improve their performance. Giving feedback on things an employee cannot change is unhelpful and will hurt their performance.

Listen

Providing feedback is more than saying what needs to be said and calling it done. Good leaders know that they must listen during this process. Perhaps there is some obstacle that, once removed, will make things easier for your team. It is always beneficial to hear both sides of the story, especially when encouraging personal growth.