Management Articles


Feedback is the Breafast of Champions!

By: Sue Romero

Sue Romero, owner of Susan Romero Consulting, Englewood, Colorado., is a human resources consultant specializing in employee relations issues, manager coaching, and management training. She has over 20 years experience coaching managers on enhancing their effectiveness. Her website is:

Feedback skills are not only management skills, they are life skills. The skill of giving positive and constructive feedback is the most critical skill of managers. It will make or break the motivation of an employee. Giving positive feedback reinforces behavior and performance that is desired. Constructive feedback changes or corrects behavior and undesired performance.

Most managers think they are giving positive feedback all the time. In fact they will say, “I tell my staff they are doing a good job.” But it’s important to be very specific about the feedback and the positive impact of the employee’s behavior and performance. Remember, we are trying to reinforce the behavior. We need to describe the behavior very specifically so that the employee knows what behavior to repeat. For example, if a manager wants to give positive feedback to an employee about an interaction with a customer she would say something like this: “Sally, your manner of dealing with customers is ideal – eye contact, smiling, using their names, and showing respect are always there. In fact, Mr. Smith commented to me about your wonderful customer service.” The specific behavior that we want reinforced is described and we have also commented on the impact of the behavior on the customers. This is more powerful than just saying, “Good job Sally.” which can be received as backslapping, glad-handling or even phony.

Giving constructive feedback is the most difficult job of a manager. It’s uncomfortable to do and there are barriers that we create. How about any of these, do they sound familiar? “If I wait long enough, the situation will probably resolve itself so I don’t have to get involved? Or “It takes so much time to criticize effectively, I’d rather pick up the slack than take the time to correct another’s behavior.” Or “I’m not perfect, so whom am I to judge anyone else’s behavior?” Usually this self-talk comes into play because we are uncomfortable and need some skill training on how to give constructive feedback. Believe it or not, but employees cannot see themselves and we need to provide constructive feedback to help them improve. Actually the same rules apply as when positive feedback is given. The behavior is specifically identified and the impact of the behavior is communicated. The employee is not personally attacked. If the employee is personally attacked, then he/she will become very defensive and argumentative. So we do not say, “Tom, you always have a bad attitude when you work with customers.” Describe the behavior, its impact on how you or others feel, and how the behavior needs to change. “Tom, I observed your interaction with Mrs. Jones. She felt your tone of voice and harsh words as not wanting to help her. I would like for you to smile, use a softer tone of voice and ask the customer how you can help him/her.” Describing the impact of the behavior with feelings and perceptions is more effective and less demeaning and argumentative.

With a little practice using these feedback skills, managers can be more effective and feel more comfortable in coaching and counseling their employees.

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