How to increase participation in feedback conversations

In today's workplace, feedback conversations are a crucial part of employee development. As frontline supervisors, it is our responsibility to ensure that our team members receive the guidance they need to grow and succeed in their roles. However, providing feedback can be a challenging task, especially when it comes to junior staff who are shy or non-responsive. Or non-junior staff who just aren't having a bar of it.

In this 4th edition of our newsletter, we'll explore some tips and strategies to help you increase participation in feedback conversations and create a culture of open communication and continuous improvement.

Our monthly infographic below focuses on a couple of models for a performance conversation in isolation. Obviously, there is a 'before' and an 'after' conversations. They don't exist in isolation and how those conversations go (or don't) is heavily influenced by what went before. If we wait until we have to have a feedback conversation before planning for inevitable feedback conversations in general, it's too late. That's not a disaster necessarily but it makes life harder needlessly for everyone.

Those befores and afters, plus the accumulation of these conversations contribute to a culture. After the infographic, we'll go into some steps you can take generally, and within such conversations, to stimulate engaged participation, and create a trusting culture where these wee chats aren't seen as a threat or a pain but as having a value to them.

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Build trust and rapport

Building a trusting relationship with your team members is the foundation for effective feedback conversations. It's important to create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas, even if they are not always positive.

Start by getting to know your team members on a personal level. Ask about their interests, hobbies, and goals outside of work. Show that you care about them as individuals, not just as employees.

Set clear expectations

Setting clear expectations for feedback conversations is key to ensuring that they are productive and effective. Let your team members know what to expect in advance, and give them time to prepare.

For example, you can say, "I'd like to schedule a feedback conversation with you next week. We'll discuss your performance over the past quarter and identify areas for improvement. Please come prepared with any questions or concerns you have."

Use active listening skills

Active listening is a crucial skill in feedback conversations. It involves fully focusing on what the other person is saying, without interrupting or judging. By actively listening, you can show your team members that you value their opinions and are open to feedback yourself.

To demonstrate active listening, use verbal and nonverbal cues such as nodding, maintaining eye contact, and summarizing what the other person has said. This can help the other person feel heard and understood.

Provide specific, actionable feedback

One of the most common mistakes in feedback conversations is providing vague or general feedback. For example, saying "You need to improve your communication skills" is not as helpful as saying "I noticed that you tend to interrupt others during meetings. Let's work on finding ways to listen more actively and communicate more effectively."

Specific feedback allows your team members to understand exactly what they need to work on and how to improve. It also shows that you are paying attention to their performance and are invested in their development.

Use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for increasing participation in feedback conversations. It involves recognizing and praising good behavior or performance, and providing encouragement and support.

When providing feedback, start by acknowledging the things that the team member is doing well. For example, "I really appreciate the effort you put into that project. Your attention to detail and creativity really made a difference."

By starting with positive feedback, you can build a sense of confidence and trust, which can make it easier for the team member to receive constructive criticism.

Encourage self-reflection

Encouraging self-reflection is another effective way to increase participation in feedback conversations. By asking open-ended questions such as "How do you think you could have handled that situation differently?" or "What do you think you could improve on?", you can encourage the team member to think critically about their own performance and identify areas for growth.

This can help the team member take ownership of their development and feel more invested in the feedback conversation.

Follow up

Following up after feedback conversations is important to ensure that the team member is making progress and to reinforce the importance of continuous improvement. Schedule a follow-up meeting or check-in to discuss any progress or challenges that the team member has encountered.

This can also be an opportunity to provide additional guidance or support if needed, and to show that you are committed to helping the team member succeed.


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