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Leaders, PASTE Your Feedback Often

Written by: Dr. Donna Vallese, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As a leader, providing ongoing feedback is one of the most important responsibilities you have as a supervisor. Sometimes providing feedback can be uncomfortable because it can lead to having some hard conversations. Many times we would rather not give the feedback and pray that the performance we are seeing will improve on its own until it is too late. Avoidance will only allow the problem to continue and will instill bad habits. Too often, we rely on our once or twice per year evaluation processes to provide feedback. When feedback is only provided at these times, it creates anxiety over evaluation, feels punitive, and leaves your people wondering why they were not given that feedback sooner.

People will adhere to what leader practices, permits, and promotes. Look at how you provide feedback now and identify what you are practicing, permitting, and promoting. I challenge you to consider how much change you would likely see if you were providing feedback to each person on your team at least once per month. How much less frustration would you have as a leader if your team was always focused on improving rather than going through the daily motions and then getting upset when you gave them their evaluations? If you provided feedback regularly, there should be no surprises during the evaluation process.

Ongoing feedback is formative in nature. It allows continuous growth and ensures that people are pivoting their practices when it is needed rather than when it is too late. Using ongoing feedback allows your evaluation process to be summative, a true review that captures performance once or twice per year.

Feedback does not always have to be a negative thing. Feedback should always promote what you want to see from your people in how they work and interact. Ensuring the feedback is ongoing allows you to follow up on whether or not it has been implemented, holds people accountable, and helps create a culture where your people will want your feedback regularly.

Delivering feedback is not about finding all of the things that are wrong with the performance. It is providing an honest assessment that acknowledges strengths as well as areas of growth. In providing impactful feedback, it cannot be a process that just seeks to correct performance; in order for your feedback to be received well, it must make it clear that your intent is to support and develop each person in your organization.

When crafting feedback for someone, it is important to be thoughtful about it and ensure that you have put the necessary pieces in place. In essence, just like you would paste together the pieces of a picture when you were a child, you must PASTE together the components of feedback to ensure that it is impactful.

P — Prioritized

Consider how much a person can truly work on at the same time in a way that allows them to improve before the next time you provide feedback. Usually, people can work on one to three things at a time, and anything more than that becomes overwhelming. While some people prefer to know everything about what they need to improve upon, the majority of the population will do much better if things are in bite sizes for them. When you are prioritizing feedback, ask yourself what the one or two things that will be most impactful on overall performance are within the holistic picture of what needs improvement? Many times if one area is improved, it will automatically improve other areas as well.

A — Actionable

Be sure that you have actions that the person can take to improve. What things need to be acted upon immediately, and what things will take some time? Here is an example: telling someone that they need to improve their people skills is far too broad, and it does not lead the person to an understanding of what they can do to actually improve their people skills. Some examples of actions that can be taken, though, are to complete a professional development module, be sure to answer the phone with a specific greeting, or take a step back and assuming the best intentions of someone they are interacting with.

S — Specific

Being specific encompasses two things — using specific performance language from the evaluation tool and also ensuring that there is clarity in your explanations of what to improve, how to improve, and what that improvement will mean. This helps the person you are providing feedback understand your rationale and be very clear on what your expectations are. It also ensures that if you are using industry language that you think they should know, that they understand exactly what you mean. For instance, if you want someone to use coaching language when working with someone else, provide some examples of what coaching language looks like. Also, consider explaining why it is important to infuse coaching language, so they understand the impact of making a change.

T — Timely

Feedback needs to be timely, which is why it is important to provide feedback on a regular basis and not just wait for the evaluation process. If you wait too long to give feedback, people will not remember what you are talking about. Consider how many decisions you make, how many activities you partake in, and how many conversations you engage in on any given day. Then try to remember exactly what you said or did three months ago on the 15th of the month; how much can you truly remember. Likely, you do not remember many specific details. Other people are not any different than you in this fact.

E — Evidence-Based

Feedback needs to be based on objectivity, not subjectivity. It is imperative that you have specific examples of what you have observed. Keep notes on exactly what you see and hear when you are working with or observing your people. These notes will help in crafting your feedback, and they will also take the subjectivity and judgment out of the feedback. While you need to interpret the evidence to provide an explanation of why something is a strength or area of growth, you also need to be sure that it is grounded in what you have actually observed or heard. Evidence is a matter of fact, not a matter of what you think or feel.

Delivering Feedback

Whether you are providing written or verbal feedback, always begin with the positive. Starting off with the positive helps generate a physical, hormonal response that helps the person be more receptive to the areas of growth. In addition, it is also important to start with the areas of strength because that is the place where people grow from. It makes more sense for people to use their strengths to help themselves improve in their areas of growth. People need to know what they are doing well.

Express your objective observations; be sure to stick just to the facts and keep your judgment out of this part of the conversation. Be curious. Ask the person to tell you more about the situation and how they made decisions. Avoid using the word “why” during this conversation because that word makes people feel on edge as if they did something wrong. You may be pleasantly surprised at this point in the conversation because many people will reflect and come back with the feedback and suggestions you were already intending to provide.

Once you have a better understanding of the context, you can now offer specific suggestions or actions that you would like to see in the future. Be sure to explain the benefits of using your suggestions because adults need to understand the purpose of those suggestions in order to be more likely to put them to use. Use your common ground; link your mission, vision, beliefs, and goals of your organization to these suggestions.

All in all, feedback is incredibly important and should not be avoided. Continuous feedback to your people is how you will move your organization forward. It is an important investment for all leaders to make in their people.

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Dr. Donna Vallese, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Donna Vallese is a Leadership Coach and Founder of Inspiring Leaders LLC. Her coaching focuses on building transformative leadership skills to impact team engagement, outcomes, and retention, leading to mission and vision becoming attained. Dr. Donna has spent most of her career as an innovative educator and educational leader with a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. Her extensive background brings a unique perspective to coaching leaders focusing on learning theory, supporting and developing a team, and equity. She brings experience from working with start-up, established, and turnaround settings. Music also plays a large role in Dr. Donna’s life as she plays piccolo in a non-profit activist street band called UNITY Street Band. The arts also play a large role in how she approaches coaching, supporting, and developing people, as she has the ability to think outside of the box to solve problems innovatively and creatively.



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