Providing employees with constructive feedback is important to not only reinforce the areas of strength that they excel at, but also to identify areas for personal and professional growth and development.
However, an important point that's often lost on managers is the narrow time frame for taking advantage of the teachable moment associated with constructive feedback.
When providing positive or constructive feedback, business coach David Chinsky suggests managers should make some acknowledgement of that behavior within 24 hours, otherwise they lose the window of opportunity to make an impact.
"At that point we've lost the ability to latch on to that emotional link [to the incident or behavior] that we carry around with us," says Chinsky, a speaker, author and founder of the Institute for Leadership Fitness. "If you were to wait a week, within that time I'm probably going to be able to rationalize that behavior. So, at the time I knew it didn't work out and I was probably waiting for someone to come talk to me about it and no one did. So, it must not have been so bad after all because, if it was, then someone would have come and spoken to me.”
And there's a good chance the employee has forgotten about the incident altogether. "If you bring it up a week later, there will be a lot of confusion about what really happened," Chinsky adds. "My rule of thumb is to have that conversation within 24 hours, if not sooner, because any longer and you lose that teachable moment when [the feedback] will be most impactful."
Managers should also find the appropriate place to have these conversations, and Chinsky adds with constructive feedback you want to have that moment in private. "I'm not a big fan of providing constructive feedback in public," he says. "Sometimes people tend to want to 'make an example' of somebody and that almost always backfires. It's humiliating to the person on the receiving end and everyone else present is wondering when they're going to be next. It's always more respectful to do it face-to-face."
And that goes for bestowing positive accolades on an employee, as well. Many managers assume positive feedback can always be lavished on people in public. And while many times this is true, it's also important to realize there are people who don't like being the center of attention.
"If we're trying to do something nice for an employee by recognizing them for a job well done and we're making them uncomfortable, then we're kind of defeating the purpose of giving them positive feedback," Chinsky says.
Lastly, documenting the conversation is an important facet to this feedback process. Chinsky explains documentation, in this instance, doesn't mean writing the person up. Rather, it's to compile a few notes in the event you need to have this conversation with the employee again in the future. These notes should include the when and where of the last conversation, what was discussed and what was decided upon as the next course of action in the action plan.
"If I said I was going to do something according to the action plan, then I need to be held accountable for doing that and I need to hold you accountable if you said you were going to do something and you didn't," he says.
Mike Zawacki is the editor of Snow Magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.