Updated: Feb 17
One of the best gifts a leader can give its team is honest employee feedback. When done constructively and helpfully, it can have a substantial impact on engagement levels. But there is one widespread problem, and it’s called “feedback phobia”. From both the management and employee sides, the process is often perceived as an uncomfortable ‘thing’. The truth is, giving feedback to your staff can be tricky: it’s not always easy to stay neutral in the conversation. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to change that.
Taking The Dread Out Of Giving Employee Feedback
Throughout my years of managing large teams, I have realised that there are 5 key points to become more comfortable in giving feedback. If like me, you have many years of experience managing staff, you might be familiar with some of the following points. However, for the first-time manager, this is study material!
1. The Environment
I once sat in a coffee place, only to hear a manager talking to an employee and giving her feedback on her lack of teamwork. ‘The poor staff member’, I kept thinking, as it was quite demeaning for her. Having a coffee with your staff member is fine but consider what type of feedback you need to give. For what I heard that day, this would have been better in their office!
Choosing the right environment for the chat is crucial. Personally, I’ve always adopted this strategy:
Not bad feedback = On the shop floor
Constructive feedback = Away from the business, perhaps in a coffee shop and in a quiet corner
Tricky feedback = In the office
Consider asking your employee where they’d feel comfortable: “Where would you want to talk? I just need 5 minutes of your time.”
2. Body Language
Possibly the most important aspect of giving feedback: 55% of the communication is non-verbal. For you to become comfortable giving employee feedback, I strongly suggest assessing your surroundings, as it affects your body language. Make sure there are no barriers between the both of you – like a desk, for instance. The desk, or whatever is between you both for that matter, makes the meeting more formal, and this should be used for disciplinary meetings.
In a cafe, try to find somewhere where there is a small table or a sofa. This allows you to have an ‘open’ body language, meaning that you have nothing to hide or no second agenda in mind.
Listening is an art, so you must nod and acknowledge your employee’s point when it’s necessary. Also, keep in mind these three important rules of body language:
Your palms should be on show
Remember that your smile is important
Make eye contact.
Consider learning more about body language by listening to podcasts, reading books or articles on it! It’s fascinating what you can discover!
3. “Hot Dog” Communication
When giving employee feedback, the hot dog communication approach works wonders: Bread – Sausage – Bread. Using the hot dog conversation style allows you to communicate better:
The bread = Think of something positive to say
Sausage = The feedback
The bread = Finish on a positive note
Basically, every conversation should go like this: positive, negative and positive. If you adopt this method, you will find that it allows you to start and finish on a positive note, which will make your staff feel more motivated and less deflated.
Consider writing key positive points before your meeting so you remember to mention them, and practice this method in all area of your life to get used to this way of communicating.
4. Get Them To Talk
Communication goes both ways. It’s important that your staff gets a chance to speak so you clear everything out and iron the issues before they leave. Ask questions, reiterate their points by confirming what they have said, and confirm the outcome so you both agree. It’s crucial that their point of view is heard, regardless of how wrong they are. Listening and coming up with a solution that you both agree on is a win-win situation.
Consider asking questions straight away to get them talking: “How did it go with the customer yesterday?” Put them at ease before getting into the core of the chat.
5. Business Needs
At the end of the day, everything comes down to the business’ needs. If you have this at the back of your mind when giving employee feedback and listening to your team, the outcome of the meeting is straightforward enough. In other words: “How does this impact the business’ needs?”
This allows you to become neutral, listen to everything that is said, and be calm when making decisions. I have heard and witnessed many situations in which managers became too personal (just like the one in the coffee shop). Keep in mind that it’s not about you, it’s about what the business needs in order for it to be represented as the top brand that you have built.
Consider a team meeting where you go through your salon or spa’s needs. Usually, you can do that as you analysing the customer journey with them. They will quickly understand what the business needs in order to reach its full potential.
Thanks for reading!
If you're keen to improve your Management style, Leadership skills or believe someone in your team could benefit from some extra training, have a look at our Online Training Modules.