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4 Steps for Providing Specific and Actionable Feedback

4 Steps for Providing Specific and Actionable Feedback
4 Steps for Providing Specific and Actionable Feedback

The 4 Steps for Providing Specific and Actionable Feedback

Providing employees with feedback isn’t always fun. Many times, these conversations feel tough ⁠— because, well, they can be!  

But providing feedback doesn’t always have to feel that way. In fact, there’s good reason to approach coaching conversations with enthusiasm.  

After all, as detailed in ENGAGE 2022: The Company Culture Report, 79% of employees surveyed responded that they had received meaningful feedback from a manager in the past six months.  

That’s a great statistic and one that underlies an ongoing truth: employees crave feedback. Everyone, no matter how experienced, wants to know how well they are performing in their role.

4 Steps For Effective Feedback 

Can you celebrate an employee’s wins while providing specific and actionable feedback around their areas of growth? Not only will that employee feel more valued, but their trust in you and their place of employment will only deepen.  

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Here are four steps to make that happen. 

1. Timing 

"Coach in the moment.” 

It’s a mantra that we’ve all heard. And while there is a great deal of truth in the statement, it requires a slight tweak. 

After all, if a behavior or action is being exhibited that calls for feedback, it should in no way go unaddressed.  

But there are many situations where adhering to the age-old mantra mentioned above might be misinterpreted. This could lead to less-than-ideal situations where an employee is being provided feedback in front of colleagues or in a heightened emotional state due to their perceived “failure” or “mistake.” 

Instead, wait for the nearest neutral moment to ask if you could share your thoughts with them.  

Consider also how long this piece of feedback will take. Is it a topic that can be covered in a few seconds or a few minutes? Knowing this going into the conversation can help shape the overall tone in immense ways.  

And lastly, think about the location in which this discussion will take place. Choose a space that feels safest for delivering your constructive thoughts.  

2. Be Specific 

Prepare your thoughts.  

Home in on the specific action or behavior that caused you to take notice and center the conversation accordingly. Be sure to also sandwich your feedback with aspects of their performance that leave you satisfied or impressed.  

This step may seem obvious, but, even still, it’s worth articulating to yourself exactly why you felt compelled to step in and provide a coaching moment. 

Because the last thing you want to find yourself doing is issuing vague and unfocused thoughts as feedback.  

For example, someone unprepared to coach may say things like, “You need to be more confident” or “You’re too timid.” 

These types of statements aren’t fair or helpful for your employee, much less yourself. They aren’t centered around a specific action that can be corrected and folded into their larger approach or strategy.  

Without articulating to yourself what exactly needs to be changed, both parties are likely to leave the conversation frustrated and none the wiser.  

To help in this area, try practicing the hypothetical conversation with yourself before actually stepping aside with the employee in question.  

Positive Feedback Examples (And a Few Negative Ones Too)

3. Make a Plan 

Ask for the employee’s thoughts.  

Now that you’ve expressed the specific reasons why you’re providing feedback, see how they feel about the details you’ve given them.  

When they respond, gauge for any action statements. Did they propose any potential changes to their strategy or approach on their own?  

If they did, great! Add whatever additional action items you feel are needed to make a plan for the future.  

And if they didn’t? That’s okay too. Make a few suggestions that you feel would be best as next steps, and follow up to confirm they feel the same way.  

The key words here being: Next Steps 

As the conversation wraps up, ensure that there is a concrete, agreed-upon plan to work from.  

Without a working gameplan, the employee is likely to repeat the initial behaviors, and you’ll both find yourselves back at square one all over again.

4. Check In Regularly 

Don’t be a stranger. 

Feedback and coaching conversations should be a regular part of your routine as a leader, whether there is an “inciting incident” or not.  

As mentioned above, employees crave feedback on their performance. But if said feedback is irregular or only when they feel as though they’ve “made a mistake?” That rare piece of coaching is likely to fall on deaf ears, leaving them feeling undervalued and the rest of their hard work underappreciated.  

More than that, frequent coaching conversations create a sense of familiarity and trust among leaders and their employees.  

If employees know that both their wins and their “losses” will be recognized by their superiors in constructive ways, over time, these “coaching” conversations add up to something else entirely: meaningful relationships.  

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About Author

Brent Tripp
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