Giving effective feedback

AT THE START of a half-day training workshop, the instructor asked each member of the group to speak by introducing themselves first, as is typical at such events, and then giving their responses to his questions one by one.

AT THE STARTof a half-day training workshop, the instructor asked each member of the group to speak by introducing themselves first, as is typical at such events, and then giving their responses to his questions one by one.

As each person spoke, they told the room the last time they had shown appreciation of someone else – be it this morning, or yesterday. A lawyer in the group tried to recall that morning’s events. He then reflected on the previous day. When it was his turn to speak, he told the room: “I know, a week ago I told my dog she was a good girl.”

Even the most self-reflective person might have difficulty facing up to the idea that they are probably not particularly effective at giving feedback. While you may well know how to smile, nod and offer encouragement to staff during performance reviews, there is much more to giving useful feedback, CMA’s half-day workshop ‘Giving Effective Feedback’ reveals.

For organisations, effective feedback becomes even more difficult as HR professionals are faced with ever increasing workloads and pressures from senior executive staff. As organisations are forced to make decisions about how resources should be allocated, people will be affected through rigorous performance appraisals and evaluation. It is easy to be oblivious of the impact of your feedback in such in environment, consultant Jonathan Schauder tells the group of thirteen in Melbourne.

Feedback responds to a person’s need for reaffirmation of both their professional and personal identities, the workshop shows. On a less personal level, of course, it is an opportunity for an organisation to explain a decision while also encouraging the person’s support. The key to effective feedback, as opposed to just plain old feedback, the CMA half-day will show you, is giving it in a way that the person is motivated so such an extent that they see it as both appropriate and worthwhile.

Sending a round email to everyone in the company saying ‘good work’may not cut the mustard. Nor will a grade or a mark at the end of each quarter without any coaching leading up to it. Feedback should be useful, meaningful, and should be clear in purpose – there is no point coaching someone when you should be giving them an evaluation.

And this is where the lawyer’s comments come in. CMA’s workshop explains that a person giving feedback should be very clear on exactly what sort of feedback they are providing, and what its impact should be on that person. Appreciation, not just of a pet but also of people, includes praising them for good work or effort, or encouraging them to keep trying. The key though, Schauder at CMA says, is making it sincere. Offering faint praise is a sure way to make someone feel patronised and undervalued. Appreciation should be given regularly –don’t let your pet dog be the only one who receives it.

Coaching should happen both formally and informally. Formal coaching involves keeping documentation and making notes. This usually occurs a couple, if not more frequently in organisations, and eventually leads to evaluation. But there should also be informal coaching, ‘Giving Effective Feedback’ reveals. Both should enable the person to improve their performance, it should help them do more of the things they do well, and less of things they don’t. This is perhaps the most complex part of the workshop, and effective coaching requires careful steps to ensure that your comments are constructive and encouraging.

Finally, feedback can actually be evaluation. Be aware when you are evaluating, and don’t confuse that with coaching. While this is often unpleasant, in most organisations it will be an integral part of allocating resources and of staff management.

Effective feedback will contribute to a person’s self esteem and will develop their performance in an organisation. It is HR’s role to ensure a best-practice approach is undertaken, while distinguishing between appreciation, coaching and evaluation, so that people can develop themselves in a positive way.

Half-day seminars are presented in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Melbourne: Friday 1 September. Sydney: Monday 1 May. Wednesday 1 November. Brisbane: Wednesday 23 August,

See www.cmaservices.com.au for more information.

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