Giving Effective Feedback When Short on Time

Virtually all of the young executives want to be good managers and mentors; they just don’t have the time — or so they believe. It’s not easy to help your employees develop as you take advantage of every business opportunity. But you can make coaching easier on yourself, in part, by giving feedback efficiently.

Once you’ve identified that you need to give feedback to a direct report, you can make that process more efficient in three ways.

Create a standard way in. One tends to spend most of the time contemplating his/her first move. That’s why the key to reducing the time spent mulling over and preparing for each coaching conversation is to have a standard way in – a simple, routinized way to open discussions about performance. Keep it simple and announce directly what’s to come. A straightforward “I’m going to give you some feedback” or “Are you open to my coaching on this?” gets immediate attention and sets the right tone. When you have your conversation opener ready it will be easier to prepare for the game. Furthermore, your direct reports will eventually become familiar with your opener, and that will help them be attuned to and hear the feedback more clearly.

Be blunt. The number one mistake executives make in coaching and delivering feedback – to their people, is being insufficiently candid, typically, because they don’t want to be mean. If you’ve ever used the phrase “maybe you could . . .” in a coaching conversation or asked one of your people to “think about” a performance issue, there’s a high probability you’re not being blunt enough. More candid you are, the more likely your coachee is to hear your message, and thus you are more likely to have an impact. The trick lies in being candid without feeling like an ogre! Be honest, be sincere, be personal, while addressing the issue head-on. The best feedback is being direct. Don’t dance around the issues, and don’t let the person whom you’re coaching, do so either.

Ask him to play it back. If your feedback doesn’t end up sticking, you’ll need to deliver it a second time — may be a third, and a fourth time as well — all of which takes your valuable time and managerial energy. To avoid these encore performances, make sure that you’ve made an impact in the first go by asking the coachee to paraphrase what s/he heard. If s/he can clearly explain to you – in her/his own words, what needs to change or be done next, then this goes a long way in ensuring that ‘they’ve got the message’. You’ll then know that the conversation is over and that you can get back to other things. On the other hand, if the message is muddled, you can correct it immediately. In either case, you’ve limited the need for future follow-ups.

The team at Actuate Business Consulting, a knowledge-based management consulting firm in India, believes that for the majority of managers, providing feedback — particularly constructive feedback, is stressful and requires significant forethought. So it should be kept in mind that the best way to make feedback effective is by being direct, keeping it simple, and asking the coachee to paraphrase the feedback. By doing this regularly, you’ll not only save your and your coachee time, but your employees will feel that you’re not just their boss, but a good coach too. In turn, they’ll sharpen their skills and stay motivated. And for any manager, that’s time well spent.

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