Leaders have a tremendous influence on their direct reports, and one of the most critical areas for leadership success is being able to give feedback to employees, praise when it’s deserved, and coaching in the moment. However, not every leader will be able to do so successfully. This is a leadership skill that can be trained, honed, and perfected over time. For this reason and with over 30 years of experience providing leadership training, we believe training leaders to give employees feedback is imperative to the long-term success of the organization, the team, the leader, and of course, the employee.
Why Is Giving Feedback An Essential Leadership Skill?
Feedback Helps Employees Achieve Their Goals
One key characteristic of a good leader is that they are able to reach organizational goals by motivating others. Giving constructive feedback helps individuals grow by learning how they can improve and by reinforcing the activities they are doing well. This ultimately helps them achieve both personal and organizational goals.
Feedback Builds Trust Between the Leader and Employee
Although it can initially be challenging, when an employee and supervisor become adept at giving and receiving feedback—it’s a two-way street—it builds a foundation of trust. When done well, the feedback process should not be anxiety-inducing for either party. It should be a mutually beneficial learning experience that helps individuals gain new insights that will help them improve performance.
Feedback Influences Employee Engagement
In companies where leadership knows how to give effective feedback, employees are more engaged. According to Gallup, “When employees strongly agree that their manager provides meaningful feedback to them, they are 3.5x more likely to be engaged than other employees.” Additionally, “Employees who receive daily feedback from their manager are 3x more likely to be engaged than those who receive feedback once a year or less.” A higher level of engagement is associated with better performance, lower turnover, and higher rates of employee satisfaction, all essential elements of staying competitive and attracting top talent.
Feedback Reinforces Individual Accountability
An organization - whether large or small, corporate or not-for-profit, complex or traditionally structured - cannot function to its fullest if individuals do not take accountability for their projects, tasks, and behaviors. Keep in mind that accountability is defined as a commitment to follow through on what has been agreed upon and to take ownership of the outcome. Feedback is crucial at reinforcing an individuals accountability to their commitment as it provides support, guidance, and direction in a way that builds confidence.
How Can You Train Leaders to Give Feedback to Employees? The Answer Is Experiential Learning.
For leaders who are not well-versed in giving feedback to employees, the interaction can be stressful and uncomfortable, even in a training session. Fortunately, like any other type of competency or behavior, feedback skills can be taught and practiced until they become second nature. However, you can’t expect leaders to learn feedback skills on their own by reading management books. To become excellent at it, they must practice it.
Of course, practicing new feedback skills in the work environment is intimidating and potentially damaging if it’s not done well. This is why experiential training is an ideal way to teach leaders this vital leadership skill. Experiential learning takes participants out of the work environment and allows them to practice new skills in a safe space with no real-world consequences. By trying different approaches and immediately seeing the results of each, participants can learn what works, what does not, and why.
Well-designed experiential learning sessions close with a debrief, led by a skilled facilitator, that connects the concepts learned in training to real-life situations that participants face on a regular basis. The leader can then return to the workplace with the confidence to use their new feedback skills effectively.
Leaders at every level can benefit from learning how to give and receive feedback, but it is especially important for emerging leaders to gain these skills through training. Experiential learning is a training method that allows leaders to test their new skills and become comfortable with them in a way that does not impact their employees. Seeing the positive results of giving feedback in a training environment and learning how to do it most effectively through practice empowers new leaders to use their new skills on the job. This leads to stronger employee-manager relationships, higher performing teams, and more engaged employees.