For most employees, hearing your boss say that they’d like to share some constructive feedback is equivalent to the dreaded relationship phrase, “we need to talk.”
But employees don’t suffer alone. Even for leaders, giving feedback can be just as uncomfortable (if negative) or require so much awareness (if positive). The struggle is real if you’re trying to provide employee feedback that drives results.
If you want feedback to be less stressful and more effective, use the 5P’s of Leadership Level Feedback to ensure your employees, you and your organization are set up for success.
There are two types (Positive and Pivotal) and three timings (Proactive, Progress and Post) that make up the 5P’s of delivering Leadership Level Feedback.
TWO TYPES OF FEEDBACK:
The number one priority of feedback is to inspire more of what gets you results and less of what doesn’t.
POSITIVE (RECOGNITION, REWARDS)
When we receive positive feedback, we enjoy a flood of happiness neurochemicals (serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine). Positive feedback creates engagement, productivity and fulfillment.
Recognition and rewards chemically re-connect us to why we work for our boss and company.
When positive feedback is sparse, employees lose a sense of being seen, being important, and contributing meaningfully.
If you’re remember the results-producing power of communicating to Always Build Competence, it’ll be in your best interest to pile it on.
Keep positive feedback meaningful, tied to a specific contribution, timely and recognize publicly when appropriate.
PIVOTAL (AKA NEGATIVE, CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM)
We only share this highly-triggering form of feedback when we need an employee to pivot (do something more, less or differently).
“Are you open to some constructive feedback?” is still experienced as “We need to talk about your poor performance.”
They both have an ominous tone that induces the same fear-based neurochemicals that shut down openness and problem solving abilities.
We need a different way to start these conversations so that the feedback recipient stays open to the conversation.
The best way to provide un-triggering Pivotal feedback is to use remaining three P’s below. You’ll be able to build in natural and expected opportunities for feedback that leave employees open and inspired to contribute positively.
Non-urgent performance improvement feedback will come up naturally through the Leadership Level Feedback components below.
You can also keep in mind Candor’s HHIIPP Model for Pivotal feedback: Helpful, Humble, Timely (in some cases, Immediate), In Person, Private, and Not Personalized.
If you have to provide on-the-spot negative behavioral feedback, use the helpful COACH feedback model to help you feel comfortable providing the feedback and help your employee stay open and receptive.
Suggested content: How do I give on-the-spot negative behavioral feedback to an employee?
PROVIDE THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF POSITIVE VS. PIVOTAL FEEDBACK
There are mixed stats about the ideal Positive to Pivotal feedback ratio, but on average, you should be at or above 7 Positive for every 3 Pivotal.
THREE TIMINGS OF FEEDBACK:
The most successful leaders employ the three Leadership Level Feedback components: Proactive, Progress and Post. Each can have Positive (what we want) and Pivotal (what we don’t want) components.
1. PROACTIVE FEEDBACK
Leaders lead employees toward something. This is where you set that destination.
Every request should be delivered with Proactive feedback that helps employees be PREPARED for success:
If you have a five minute turnaround on something, you likely won’t need a long diatribe. But don’t be tempted to under-do it unless you start hearing, “I was too clear on what was expected of me and why my work matters.” (Said no employee ever)
You will always suffer from using two few of the PREPARED components than too many. Infuse as many components as you can to keep engagement high.
CHECK IN WITHOUT CONDESCENDING
Lastly, you need a way to confirm you’re on the same page.
The classic communication tool of “repeat back to me so I know you understand” sounds condescending in the workplace.
Instead, create a PREPARED form that you always use with new project requests. You can fill it out for the employee, with the employee or request that the employee emails you their first draft of the PREPARED outline summarizing your verbal request so that you can confirm their understanding.
2. PROGRESS FEEDBACK
Progress feedback is partnering for success and check in on the Proactive Success Milestones you’ve set. Since you both need this project to meet expectations, you both need to check in to discuss questions and address pivot points.
Ideally, you would have pre-determined Progress feedback sessions (set up in the Proactive feedback “Success Milestone” discussion). This built in expectation for feedback reduces the self-protecting adrenaline rush.
Success Milestone check-ins might be based on required deliverable timing (“need to review first draft by next Thursday at noon”), regularly (“daily, weekly”) or by milestone completion (“when pre-discussed Part A is done, we’ll meet”, and so on for Success Milestones B and C).
Progress feedback can be done over the phone or in person.
What’s the trigger-free way to check in on progress? Ask this specific question: How are you feeling about the project?
This approach is abstract on purpose.
By framing it as asking for their assessment, you’ll build competence and accountability instead of triggering self protection. By using the think/feel approach (part of the COACH model), you’ll build competence/create connection.
Even if you know there’s a problem or are having competency doubts, this approach puts the project (vision) right up front. Your employee has an opportunity to share problems and doubts without it sounding like an aim at their competence. They keep their accountability for giving 100% effort to the vision of the project.
If further prompting is needed, follow up questions can be: Do you feel we are on track for delivering the next deliverable on time? Do you need additional resources (to stay on track for delivering the next deliverable on time)?
Progress feedback is the antidote to micromanaging.
3. POST FEEDBACK
Post feedback is a crucial component at the conclusion of a task or project. You want an infusion of Positive and Pivotal feedback here, but it is often a highly-triggering experience.
Traditional performance reviews show how not doing enough Progress feedback makes Post feedback more harmful than helpful. Employees can’t even appreciate initial Positive feedback because they know a negative surprise is just around the corner.
No one wins when a year’s worth of feedback is saved for one epic competence-crumbling performance review.
Once you’re doing an excellent job at Proactive and Progress feedback, Post feedback now becomes positive and productive.
Performance reviews can become something more productive and inspiring (like focusing on contribution instead of competence).
With quality Proactive and Progress feedback, your Post feedback will likely be Positive and curious.
Start with recognition and than ask, “Can you think of anything, big or small, that we can improve to get better results faster next time?”
Stay curious and drain the “what else” well. Always ask “what else” before you respond to an answer and until they’re completely out of ideas.
READY – SET – GO
Feeling comfortable providing feedback to employees gets easier the more you practice asking for and receiving feedback.
Start by modeling the way and watch Leadership Level Feedback transform your company culture and employee engagement.