How to effectively build a feedback relationship with your employees

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How can leaders approach the challenge of giving feedback in tough conversations?

The topic of delivering negative feedback was discussed by Julia Rowan of Performance Matters, at Morgan McKinley's Breakfast Briefing. 

As Julia mentioned in her talk; "the tough conversation" is the main topic of around 70% of all coaching sessions. Leaders, managers and supervisors often find it challenging to deliver negative feedback to their employees. The "tough conversations" are often related to behavioural issues, attitude or poor performance, so failing to handle these professionally and kindly could potentially damage the relationship with your employees.       

Establishing Feedback Culture

In order to be fair and effective, it's important to start with building a feedback relationship with your employee(s). Having a conversation to establish the rules of communication and agree on the baseline is a first and crucial step in building trust and understanding on both sides. It's significantly easier to deliver negative impact, if the employee is prepared to receive it. Having the date, time and format agreed in advance will allow the employee to mentally and physically prepare for the feedback.


The 3 Cs Standard - delivering negative feedback


The 4 Rules For Giving Negative Feedback

Once the time to have the conversation has come, the leaders, managers and supervisor should focus on the facts. In order to ensure that feedback is delivered effectively and all points are fairly discussed, it's worth following the BOFF (Behaviour, Outcomes, Feelings, Future) model: 


1. Behaviour: Begin the conversation with describing the instance or pattern of behaviours that you have observed and wish to address. Bear in mind that it's crucial to stick to the facts and not expressing opinions at this stage.

2. Outcome: It's important to talk through the consequences of such behaviour aswell, including the impact it has on others.

3. Feelings: Make sure to express your positive and/or negative feelings about the situation or issue during the conversation.

4. Future: Don't focus only on what happened, but make sure to discuss the future for instance by asking the employee to adjust their behaviour or attitude.

When handling tough conversations, be agile and use all 4 elements in the order that works for you and that's appropriate to the discussion. Use the behaviour as an anchor for the conversation and pick and mix from outcome, feelings and future in the way that's suitable for the conversation.


How To Prepare For "The Tough Conversation"?

During "the tough conversations" emotions can run high and the wrong words can slip out. By preparing for the conversations, leaders can gain more control over their own approach and contribution to the discussion. One of the ways to prepare is to answer this list of 13 questions listed in the below SlideShare, that will help you sort your thoughts ahead of the important conversation.


It is recommended to think each of the questions thoroughly and write down the answers.



The Purpose of  "The Tough Conversations"


The tough conversation can serve different purposes from setting up a performance improvement plan, grievance or disciplinary conversation to informing someone about their redundancy.  Regardless of the goal the leaders and managers are working towards, it's crucial to remember that the focus should always remain on finding solutions and moving on.



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