Recently at one of my son’s baseball games, I realized how much I truly love his coach’s leadership style. He provides feedback to his team as soon as they walk off the field or after they go to bat, pulling them aside and speaking to them all directly. Each time he is consistent, caring, and offers them constructive advice which helps them improve and play an overall better game as a team. So when I think about that coaching style when it comes to leadership in the workplace, the key ingredients are very similar. When leaders focus on sincere relationship building with their team, they set themselves up for success when it is time to deliver positive or constructive feedback.
The first step in providing excellent feedback is to always be consistent with it. During my son’s baseball practices and games, how often his coach gave feedback to each player was one of the first things I heard - and I am just sitting on the sidelines! Every single time he had a chance to have an interaction with them, he would sprinkle in positive or constructive feedback. We can do that in workplace leadership too! Whether it’s after a big project, an accidental mishap, or you know someone from your team is going above and beyond, take that opportunity to swoop in and give them the feedback they need.
The timing of your feedback can be crucial to performance. If you wait too long, it will likely alter its effectiveness. The closer to the event you address the issue, the better. Feedback isn't about surprising someone, so the sooner you do it, the more the person will be expecting it. Think of it this way: it's much easier to provide feedback about a single task that hasn't been done properly than it is to do so about a whole year of failed tasks of the same caliber. Deliver your feedback at the opportune time.
Don’t be afraid to get detailed! Tell your people exactly what they need to improve. This ensures that you stick to facts and there is less room for ambiguity. Feedback should be directly given and specific to what you want to address, no matter which type of feedback you’re providing. But remember to stick to the facts and what you know first hand because you'll quickly find yourself on shaky ground if you start giving feedback based on hearsay.
I’ve shared before that a leader once told me that one of his team members came to him disappointed that he wasn’t being provided with as much feedback as he had expected. He expressed that not getting enough constructive feedback made him feel like he wasn’t improving and growing within his role. Although some employees may do well with receiving feedback at regular intervals, some of your people may require more verbalization to know they’re advancing forward and not staying stagnant.
The cherry on top is to always deliver your feedback with care. Each and every time. Caring Leaders show they care not just by doing the things that make everyone comfortable, but by providing feedback that helps their people stretch beyond what is comfortable. Remember, we are all human! So whether it’s a baseball game in the bottom of the 9th and you’re gunning for a win or you’re a manager racing to a deadline of a big project, the way you treat your people and caring about their wellbeing should always be at the forefront. Their performance will be as good as the support that backs them.