…or how to become a master of feedback!
Like many other work environments, construction involves several layers of supervisory and management roles, many of which are taken up by people who have worked their way up the ranks.
On the one hand, that’s a great example of how hard work and loyalty can be rewarded, but, on the other hand, it means that often people without any formal management or leadership training are having to manage and lead.
One of the trickiest aspects of managing other people is giving feedback – both praise and criticism. When such feedback is thoughtful, constructive and given to workers in the right way at the right time, it can make a big impact on their performance at work, help them make strides forward and lead to them adopting improved practices over the long-term.
If you’re struggling to achieve this, here are some tips:
1. Get the balance right
One of the most common mistakes managers make is to give only one kind of feedback – either only ever dolling out the praise (avoiding the stress of providing critical feedback) or always pointing out the negatives (and failing to give positive reinforcement for good work).
Both approaches are flawed.
If you avoid giving your team any negative feedback (let’s call it constructive criticism), then they will remain unaware of their weaknesses and miss out on opportunities to learn from mistakes.
If, however, you avoid giving any positive feedback, this can result in team members who lack confidence, have very little sense of whether they are progressing in their roles and largely feel disillusioned.
So, when giving feedback, think about whether you’re offering the proverbial carrot or the stick and whether there’s too much of one and not enough of the other. Strive to find a happy medium.
2. Tailor your approach
While it’s obvious that you need systems in place to monitor and review people’s work, another error that leaders make is using such systems to follow a one-size-fits-all approach to giving feedback.
The problem with that is everyone is different and will therefore respond differently to the way you carry out a review. If you have a criticism to make and want to see active improvement, for example, one worker may need a frank, direct approach (telling it as it is) whilst another might need the criticism given in balance with some words of encouragement. As their manager, you will only know this if you take some time to observe how your team interacts with each other. You will only be able to deliver the right balance if you keep your own approach flexible to individual needs, sensitivities and circumstances.
3. Be tactful
Tact is basically what allows people to tell the truth in the most considerate way possible. It’s a skill that not everyone is immediately able to master but using tact is absolutely key to making sure feedback is effective.
Think about the different ways you could deliver a piece of negative feedback to someone. Maybe you have a blunt but respectful conversation in private; or maybe you make an insulting comment in front of their peers. Which approach is going to actually help that worker make a change?
In this kind of situation, tact doesn’t only help induce positive outcomes for the person receiving the feedback. It also helps the manager or supervisor to build and strengthen their own reputation. People will come to see you as someone who can be trusted to give honest, credible feedback without any associated negative characteristics like aggressiveness.
4. Keep it timely
Although annual performance reviews have their purpose, they should never be the only means of feedback that a worker receives.
For feedback to be useful and actionable, it should be given while it is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Taking a quick moment to issue some praise will motivate a worker to maintain their good working habits while dealing with a more problematic issue through timely critical feedback means that issue can be addressed sooner rather than later.
Carry out regular reviews of staff, use them to have the difficult conversations if needs be, use them to discuss and give praise for progress, and use them to promote the next stage of someone’s learning and development.
5. Make it a two-way conversation
Feedback sessions are a great way for staff to become more aware of how they are performing and what they might do to improve. They also offer great opportunities for staff to become more engaged with the company they work with by having a time and space when they can share their own feelings, ideas or concerns. This makes it easier for the company to identify what career goals people may have and what training and learning resources might be worth investing in as well as allowing for greater innovation.
Feedback in the workplace should always be about trying to bring out the best in your workforce. That requires managers and leaders to strike a balance between the good and the bad, tailor their approach to individuals, use tact to skilfully deliver the feedback, be timely and ensure its a two-way process. Through this well-devised approach, individuals can be supported to develop their careers, managers can be seen as highly respected advisers and, on the back of the inevitable improvements made, the company can thrive.
Feature image: Freepik