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Fear surrounds the idea of performance feedback: leaders are scared about how the receiver will react and employees are afraid of what their bosses will say about them and what impact this will have on their job.

Two of our innate fears-rejection and the unknown- cause many leaders to perform irregular, poorly-handled reviews, and many employees to limit their business growth. People avoid the truth, which leads to procrastination, denial, brooding, jealousy, and self-sabotage.

When it comes to feedback in our organizations today, both leaders and employees dislike the process. But, changes.

You, as a leader, can help those you lead to become better through effective feedback. And, while fear may not be able to completely gotten rid of because it is part of human nature, it can be greatly reduced in the workplace.

Don't let your culture be one filled with fear-because fear will hold everyone back and act as a barrier to your business success.

What does effective performance feedback look like?

Some companies have learned lessons about their employee review processes by applying research findings about human motivation. When employees aren't living in fear, they can do their jobs better.

Effective performance feedback will look differently for every company but here are two newer ideas that can help your workplace cut down on fear.

Get rid of performance reviews. Samuel Culbert is the author of "Get Rid of The Performance Review", and he believes performance reviews are "the most ridiculous practice in the world." He believes there is another way, that performance previews that focus on the future instead of the past are a more effective option.

Crowd source your performance feedback. Some companies are getting their employees more involved in the process of reviewing their peers. On the Harvard Business Review blog, Eric Mosley writes that, "A group of independently deciding individuals is more likely to make better decisions and more accurate observations than those of an individual."

As a leader, these these five things can reduce fear about employee feedback.

  • Make feedback a part of your culture. Create a feedback culture where everyone understands why feedback is necessary and how it can help them.
  • Give feedback immediately and regularly. Don't wait until a yearly review to tell employees how they are doing. It's best to talk about a situation as soon as possible while it's fresh on the person's mind. Use behavior-based feedback. Don't say, "you have a bad attitude." Instead, say, "when you come in the mornings, you always start an argument with someone..."
  • Give criticism in specific, detailed terms in an friendly environment. Employees won't understand what they need to do if leaders give vague advice, such as, "Do better on the weekly reports." You need to say, "Be more thorough on your weekly reports by..."
  • Recognize employees throughout the year. Employees who receive recognition throughout the year are more satisfied in their roles compared to those who only receive it once a year, according to the 2011 Globoforce Workforce Mood Tracker.

Here is an easy model for giving effective feedback that I train executives to use:

  1. State your observation / situation: Say, "I want to talk to you about..."
  2. State the impact of the behavior: "I noticed that (or I felt that)..." Remember to ask for the employee's feedback, and listen while they talk.
  3. Ask for suggestions: "What ideas do you have to improve in the future?" This engages the employee in creating their own solutions which will increase the level of commitment for making the change.
  4. Gain commitment: " Tell me what solution you intend to move forward with" Once they have committed to improvement, get a time commitment as well.
  5. Schedule time to check on progress. Reconnect with the employee on her progress in improving the specific behavior or situation.

Step 3 is a coaching technique that I encourage all leaders to become proficient at. If you incorporate good questioning techniques with your employee interactions you can increase your productivity as they learn to solve their own problems.

How will you incorporate one of the above suggestions into the way you handle employee feedback?


Larry Hart

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