The Simple Steps You Can Take to Give More Impactful Feedback

Follow this advice to start giving better feedback faster.
Written by Michael Hines
September 13, 2021Updated: September 13, 2021

According to a 2021 employee engagement survey conducted by HR technology company Officevibe, 63 percent of employees feel they aren’t praised enough, 32 percent wait three months or more to receive feedback and 64 percent want higher-quality feedback. Of course, this isn’t a revelation. Many managers know how important meaningful feedback is and still struggle to give it.

Most employees are never asked to seriously develop this skill before becoming a leader, and given the speed of work in tech, it can be difficult to find the time necessary to focus on providing good feedback. While time may be in short supply, there are some easy and impactful first steps professionals can take to fix that.

For example, Beth Perillo, senior manager of the people team at Arity, said one of the most important things a leader can do is to simply recognize the difference between feedback and praise.

“Telling someone they did a great job isn’t enough,” Perillo told Built In. “Focusing on impact helps the employee understand why their work was great so that they can repeat that performance in a similar situation in the future.”

Perillo and James McClain, manager of infosec identity access management at TransUnion, recently spoke with Built In about the steps they’ve taken to give feedback that both acknowledges the contributions of their team and pushes them to perform better.

 

James McClain
Manager, InfoSec Identity Access Management

When it comes to giving meaningful feedback, James McClain, manager, infosec identity access management at TransUnion, follows a simple philosophy: be human first. This mindset enables McClain to effectively provide feedback in a variety of situations, be they complex or straightforward. In addition, “being human” means acknowledging the person receiving feedback has professionals goals and aspirations of their own, which makes it easier to focus on giving feedback designed to boost performance.

 

As a manager, what can you do to make sure the positive feedback you give is truly meaningful?

I’ve managed my team remotely and onsite for three years. One of the biggest concepts I have learned is ensuring the right balance between firm, instant and transparent feedback during one-on-one meetings. At TransUnion, every team member plays a critical role. In return, we’ve made it a priority to ensure that everyone is able to grow. My goal is to always create an environment of trust among my team.

The fundamental purpose of instant and transparent feedback is giving someone guidance and allowing them to understand how their contribution is crucial to the team’s success. Along the way, my hope is this type of management style develops their core strengths and helps them push through difficult situations in a meaningful way to define their career journey.

Treating people with respect at all times differentiates true leaders.


When offering feedback, how do you adapt your communication style or setting to suit the personality of the employee?

My first year in leadership taught me that the most fundamental thing required to get the best out of any team is effective communication. It’s about being intentionally clear, respectful and professional at all times. For example, if you are dealing with a complex situation, concentrate on validating the other person’s feelings rather than inserting your own opinion, keeping in mind that every situation is unique. With that said, I adjust my communication style to ensure I’m mindful of the situation and show compassion while assisting with a resolution. The main takeaway I can provide here is to be human first.

 

What’s a lesson you’ve learned from giving feedback over the years, that you wished you’d known when you first started as a manager?

It’s important to be a strong listener and great communicator. Developing listening skills and taking detailed notes is imperative when you’re a manager. You want to ensure that you properly understand the situation and are able to communicate effectively. In addition, being more conscious and showing empathy to someone, instead of criticizing them, is very important. Lastly, treating people with respect at all times differentiates true leaders. All of these elements have helped shape my leadership style, and I look forward to setting my team up for success because we only succeed when we work together.

 

Beth Perillo
Senior Manager, People Team

As Beth Perillo, senior manager on the people team at Arity notes, feedback has to be delivered in a tailored way for it to be effective. Some people can instantly process and discuss feedback while others may need some time to turn it over. Public praise given at an all-hands meeting may be seen as awesome by one employee and awkward by another. Regardless of the preferences, the message is clear: How feedback is given is equally as important as the feedback itself.

 

As a manager, what can you do to make sure the positive feedback you give is truly meaningful?

I think the key to meaningful, positive feedback is understanding that praise and feedback aren’t the same thing. Telling someone they did a great job isn’t enough. I try to provide feedback on how their great work impacted a person, team or project. Focusing on impact helps the employee understand why their work was great so that they can repeat that performance in a similar situation in the future. 

Also, employees want to understand how their work impacts a larger mission, and being specific when giving positive feedback helps make that connection. At Arity, we encourage managers to use the situation, behavior, impact, or SBI model, when giving feedback. This model works for both positive and critical feedback and ensures your comments are specific and impact-focused.

Employees want to know what they can be doing better.


When offering feedback, how do you adapt your communication style or setting to suit the personality of the employee?

It’s really important to get to know your employees and understand how they like to receive information and feedback. Some people like being praised publicly, while others don’t. I’ve had employees who need some time to process feedback and then have a follow-up conversation about it later, while others can immediately internalize it and move on. Being able to adapt to your employee’s preferred communication style means your feedback is more likely to be heard and acted on.

However, regardless of their personality, giving feedback in a timely manner is most important. Feedback received six months later during a performance review will never have as much impact as feedback received in the moment.

 

What’s a lesson you’ve learned from giving feedback over the years, that you wished you’d known when you first started as a manager?

I’ve been surprised by how much employees really want to hear your critical feedback on their work. I’ve found that employees who only get positive feedback from their manager in a performance review are left wanting more. Employees want to know what they can be doing better and rely on constructive, critical feedback from their manager to improve.

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