As a boss I can get too focused on getting the job done. I lose sight of my team and forget to give them constructive feedback. As a wife and mother I can get overwhelmed with the schedule and the myriads of details necessary to keep the household running. I misplace the need to invest in relationship. It seems that this tendency is quite common among leaders.
Numerous surveys reveal that employees are dissatisfied with the amount of feedback they receive from employers. It’s not just positive feedback they desire. They are also looking for constructive criticism, to know how to improve their performance. Another complaint among employees is that feedback about excellent performance does not include how they can repeat it.
So how do we give constructive feedback?
Address specific behavior. It is not helpful to say, “You’re doing a great job!” While the person may feel pleased, he has no idea what specific actions led to the praise. On the flip side, a statement like, “I’m very disappointed in you” is similarly ineffective. The recipient does not know what created the dissatisfaction.
“I really like (specific behavior) the way you handled that dissatisfied customer. You listened to her complaints and worked hard to fix her situation.”
Explain the impact of specific behavior. This is key, because it attaches the action to a result or consequence.
“I really like the way you handled that dissatisfied customer. You listened to her complaints and worked hard to fix her situation. (The impact) That showed how much we value her.”
Admittedly, it is easier to give positive constructive feedback than negative constructive feedback. We may worry about hurting feelings or stirring up conflict. As a result, we try to figure out how to sugarcoat it or ignore it. However, servant leaders must be devoted to the growth and well-being of their followers even if it feels uncomfortable in the moment.
Offer an alternative response. In the case of correction, share alternatives for handling the situation. It’s frustrating to hear that there is a problem without being offered a solution.
Provide constructive feedback in real time. Address a specific behavior as soon as possible. In the case of negative constructive feedback, wait until your emotions are controlled. Pray for wisdom to speak the truth in a firm and loving manner at the proper time. But don’t wait too long.
As servant leaders, let us be led by God’s Word as we offer feedback to others.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Heavenly Father, grant me boldness to share constructive feedback with others. I desire to be an encouraging leader, helping people to grow in what you have called them to do. Teach me to point them to You, and patiently instruct them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.