The Best Way to Give Feedback as a Manager

November 5, 2018

Learn how to best give feedback as a a manager to an employee.

Recently, we surveyed 3,000 professionals on LinkedIn and asked them the most frustrating trait they've experienced in a manager.

Near the top of their list – a manager who doesn’t foster their employees' development. And, our data also revealed that if employees feel like they can’t grow within their role, they are very likely to quit.

That’s a bad thing. Even worse – standout employees care about this even more than average employees, so not fostering your employees’ development as a manager is a recipe for losing your absolute best people (obviously, not ideal).

So, how do you foster development? Well, a big part of it is giving feedback, according to LinkedIn Learning Instructor Sara Canaday.

“The best way for employees to grow is by having a (manager) who is tuned in and paying close attention to their work, someone who cares enough about their success to speak up when they see performance that deserves a high-five or an honest assessment of what went wrong,” Canaday said.

This article explains how to do that.

5 Guidelines to Follow for Giving Feedback as a Manager

In her course Coaching Skills for Leaders and Managers, Canaday listed five guidelines to follow when delivering feedback as a manager, to an employee. They are:

1. Feedback should be specific.

When giving feedback as a manager, be specific with your employee about the behavior you think should be changed and why it matters.

For example, tell them, “In our meeting yesterday with our supplier, you dismissed them without letting them speak. Let’s give them an opportunity to express their views next time so we can continue to have a strong relationship with them – and maybe come up with a more creative solution together.”

Compare that to “you can be negative sometimes.” Which one is more likely to change the employee’s behavior?

2. Feedback should be timely.

“If it's October and an employee has a huge win — or a behavioral problem — that feedback shouldn't wait until the March performance review,” Canaday said. “They need to know that you, as the (manager), notice what's going on.”

Plus, if you are timely with your feedback, the problem is likely to be fixed sooner.

3. Feedback should be purposeful.

This is key – only provide feedback on areas that are truly worth developing.

“Before you deliver suggestions or constructive criticism, ask yourself, what's the purpose of this information?” Canaday said. “Is it relevant here? Could it make a difference in their performance or ability to reach their goals?”

Secondarily, explain to the employee why developing in that area is so important and how it’ll help them accomplish their goals.

“For instance, ‘I'm sharing this with you because I know you wanna improve your sales numbers and I believe this is an important adjustment that can help you do just that’," Canaday said. “To employees, that approach shows that you care about them and their goals and want to help them, which makes them listen to your message in a very different way.”

4. Feedback should be tactful.

Nobody loves getting constructive feedback. So, be mindful of your words when providing feedback, particularly early in your relationship with the employee.

Two ways that’ll help you be tactful with your words are:

  • Starting sentences with “I” instead of “you.” For example, “I’m concerned about the tone you had with the client today", as opposed to, “you are too abrupt.”
  • Keep your emotions in check with delivering feedback, even if the employee doesn’t. The last thing you want to do is deliver feedback emotionally – that’s generally when you say something you’ll regret.

5. Feedback should be ongoing.

The better you are at giving feedback as a manager, the more comfortable you’ll be giving it and the more receptive your employee will be to it. And that’s what you want: feedback as an always-on part of your relationship with your employee, just like their growth (hopefully) is.

“As trust develops, you should be able to offer real-time feedback in formal and informal settings, rather than only scheduled meetings,” Canaday said. “When (managers) consistently deliver purposeful feedback that is specific, timely and compassionate, employees will quickly develop the skills they need to accelerate their careers.”

Want to learn more? Watch Canaday’s full course, Coaching Skills for Leaders and Managers – it’s free until Dec. 31.

Other leadership courses on LinkedIn Learning – that are also free until Dec. 31 – are:

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