Feedback may be one of the most feared words in business. Leaders will avoid providing good feedback for fear of upsetting the fragile relationship they have with direct reports. Employees avoid receiving feedback for fear of painful and possibly paralyzing bad news. Yet research shows that feedback may be the most powerful yet cheapest management tool at our disposal.

Feedback satisfies the leaders’ need to get people on track and assists their ability to energize their direct reports’ intrinsic motivation. Constructive feedback is absolutely linked and directly proportional to productivity. For employees, getting good feedback supports their understanding how their leader and others perceive their performance and has strong links to job satisfaction and engagement.

People crave validation of their work. People want to know their leader cares enough to provide course corrections on a regular basis. It lets them know you’re looking out for them. It will also prevent completely off course events.

Would you rather hear positive feedback about your performance or suggestions for improvement? This question was the focus of a study by Jack Zinger and Joseph Folkman [HBR Jan 2014]. Interestingly, a significantly higher number of respondents preferred corrective feedback over praise or recognition. Why was this? 72% of them said that they thought their performance would improve if their leaders would provide corrective feedback, provided it’s offered in a constructive manner.

Without providing feedback how are our people going to learn? How will they know if they’re getting close to the goal you’ve set for them and whether they are executing properly? Another interesting study concluded that people’s motivation surges when goals AND feedback are combined. In fact that same study by Bandura and Cervone, concluded that providing just goals to people or just feedback had the same impact on motivation as providing no goals or feedback.

10 Tips for providing Constructive Feedback
1. Ask Their Permission. Permission paves the way for constructive feedback.
2. Communicate Caringly. Be clear on your purpose. Express your concern and support. Let them know it’s not about character it’s about behaviour.
3. Pick the Right Place. More private than public is your preference.
4. Be Specific. First, provide your observations over interpretations.
5. Describe Your Reaction. Link their action to the impact. Help them understand the implications.
6. Link to Goals. Provide line of sight to their goals.
7. Be Timely. Act quickly. Best feedback is always provided sooner over later.
8. Allow Them to Respond. Be an excellent listener. Be silent. Beware of your body language.
9. Avoid Poor Language. Avoid “you need to” phrases. Avoid attacking phrases.
10. Clear Actions. Complete the discussion with specific actions. Provide suggestions if they don’t have one. Be realistic, don’t ask too much.

People believe constructive feedback is essential to their career development. They want it from their leaders. Unfortunately, leaders often don’t feel comfortable providing good, clear and constructive input. Bu a leader’s ability to give corrective feedback constructively is one of the critical keys to leadership, and an essential skill to boost your team’s performance and quite frankly one of the cheapest management tools that could set you apart from your competition.

Article by Scott Aberg