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Becky Blalock


How to Share Constructive Feedback That Builds Trust

Tips for before, during, and after the meeting

Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2016 - 12:33

When asked about the thing most managers dread about their job, the No. 1 response is giving constructive feedback. Yet this is the most important task for any leader.

As someone who came out of college and was leading a team at 22 years old, I wish I’d had some guidance on how to make feedback sessions more effective for my team members. After 33 years in corporate America, I offer a simple outline I learned to use for making the most of a feedback session.

Before the meeting
• Find a private location to have the discussion and notify the employee that you want to have a discussion about performance. This will help take the surprise out of the meeting.
• Beware of feedback overload. Most people can get overwhelmed when you’re giving them feedback on more than two areas, so be sure to focus your discussion on a few specific items.
• Do your homework. Make sure you can give specific examples of problem areas or areas where the employee can improve. Focus on the actions and not on the person. Provide concrete observations rather than inferences. This will help take emotion out of the discussion. Many times individuals are not aware of the behaviors holding them back. Examples make the discussion more meaningful.
• If possible, have the employee complete a 360 feedback process, including a self-assessment.
• Determine specific suggestions for how improvements can be made.
• Ensure you have a good written outline for the feedback discussion.

During the meeting
• Be sure to make comfortable eye contact during the discussion.
• Share positive feedback, if possible, before beginning a discussion about constructive feedback.
• Share specific examples regarding how the employee has not met expectations.
• Share specific examples of how the employee can improve.
• Give the employee an opportunity to respond.
• Set a timeline for improvement that is agreed to by the employee.
• Summarize the meeting and ask the employee what you personally can do to help.

After the meeting
• Compose documentation of the discussion. This will remind you of any follow up commitments that have been made, both by the employee and by you.
• Do follow up. Show your interest in the employee’s betterment and do your part to help when necessary.

Each of us has areas in need of improvement. Being prepared and thoughtful during these discussions helps build an environment of trust where employees welcome feedback. This is a sign of a truly great leader. The only way an individual can reach his full potential is to be aware of his weak areas and receive thoughtful coaching about how to improve.

So I dare you: Help your team reach its fullest potential by coaching them to be their best. While many of these suggestions seem elementary, many leaders fail to do these simple steps. Try them. You’ll experience the tremendous impact constructive feedback can have on your employees.

First published Nov. 17, 2015, on Becky’s Blog.


About The Author

Becky Blalock’s picture

Becky Blalock

Becky Blalock is a managing partner with Advisory Capital LLC where she provides strategic consulting and is a board member of companies involved in energy, information technology, and medicine. She formerly served as senior vice president and chief information officer of Southern Co. where she directed IT strategy and operations across its nine subsidiaries. Blalock holds a master’s degree with honors in finance from Mercer University and a degree in business administration from State University of West Georgia. Blalock is the author of the book Dare: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage, and Career for Women in Charge (Jossey-Bass, 2013).