Tiana Brown

The Talk: Insights for giving constructive feedback

“Do you let your staff dress like that?” an angry parent remarked. You recently met with a concerned parent regarding an inappropriately dressed counselor working a recent “Family Night” event.  After the conversation, you scratched your head wondering how to share the feedback.   When we are in this situation, many of us wish to overlook hairy matters like inappropriate attire rather than address it. But in some cases, many of us would use this parent’s comments as an opportunity to discuss the mounting frustrations towards an employee.

As leaders, we often share our feelings of discontent with other professionals, spouses, and friends but tend to shy away from actually addressing our staff about it.  As after-school professionals, we must provide feedback routinely and promptly, or we run the risk of losing out on missed opportunities for personal growth and team development. Giving constructive criticism is tough, but once you develop your distinctive style, it will become part of your repertoire.

Insights that will help you with providing feedback to your staff:

Reflect

Think critically about the circumstances surrounding the situation. Examine your judgments, interpretations, and assumptions of that worker’s choices in that particular case.  It is important to ask yourself: Are you sharing this feedback with the employee because you genuinely want them to do their best? Do you have a personal bias towards this employee? Once you have examined your reasoning for giving feedback, ensure that your position is objective and then set up a time to share your thoughts and perspective.

There are many ways to skin a cat

“Compliment Sandwich” is a method currently used for giving corrective feedback. This process consists of recognition, corrective feedback, followed by more praise. This style helps to lessen the impact of criticism from higher up.  Managers favor this approach in hopes the employee will be receptive to feedback.  In many cases, this technique is very useful.  However, there are some drawbacks to the sandwich technique. People are savvy and can quickly pick up on the pattern. They learn to disregard the praise because they know such recognition will lead to criticism. Being direct and authentic is one of the best ways to give corrective feedback. I’ve noticed that when I give corrective feedback, I make sure; staff knows that constructive feedback is a natural part of professional growth. I also make sure and highlight the areas where that employee thrives, so he/she knows they are appreciated and valued. How something is said can determine how effectively it will be received. The key is to be authentic, with your strategy of delivery, while remembering that “how you say it” matters.

Wrap Up

Regardless of an employee’s reaction or possible fallout, you have to remain calm and firm as a leader. Do not let yourself get frustrated because it can lead to a power struggle. Stay clear and objective with your thoughts. Staff’s inability to accept feedback reflects their lack of self-awareness; it is not a reflection on you. It’s difficult for anyone to receive feedback.  So allow your employee time to process the critique.