How managers can give better feedback

Manager giving feedback in office

Which do you find the most difficult? Receiving or giving feedback?

I used to think that receiving feedback was worse than giving feedback. However, once I became a manager, I realised I hated giving feedback.

I found giving team members feedback awkward and embarrassing. I think it reminded me of painful memories when I started dating (a loooong time ago).

As with dating, I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t know what to say and usually said the wrong thing, anyway. Feeling defeated, as with dating, I avoided giving feedback whenever I could.

To be fair, no one had taught me how to give effective feedback. This is a real shame because it’s only now that I realise how powerful feedback is.

Separate evaluation from coaching and appreciation

As a manager or leader of people, you’re responsible for:

  1. Evaluating performance (feedback)
  2. Helping people improve (coaching)
  3. Acknowledging people when they do well (praise)

Each of these activities is vital in moving your organisation move forward. They are the underpinnings of successful teams. They also help people feel part of something bigger than themselves.

Problems arise when you mix up evaluation, coaching, and appreciation. While each has its place, learn how to employ these feedback methods separately.

This is where the dreaded ‘Annual Review’ makes things worse. Because they are an odd mixture of evaluation, coaching and praise, Annual Reviews can be a clumsy experience for both sides.

Annual Reviews are often so bad that they can make an employee feel less rather than more motivated. Ironically, some managers leave the room feeling they ‘have said what needed to be said’. Only to be disappointed days or weeks later when the team member’s behaviour or performance doesn’t change.

So, like me, should you abandon a formal review process and simply hope for the best that staff improve?


In fact, in the age of ‘Quiet Quitting’ age, learning how to give good feedback is more important than ever. Here are three approaches you could try:

#1. Ditch the annual review

Having a 12-month gap between giving people feedback is way too long.

Instead, ramp up the contact you have with your line reports. Try to speak to everyone every day. If that’s impossible, ensure it’s at least once a week.

If you run a huge team (and most managers don’t), aim to have at least a 5-minute chat with everyone every other week. And at the very least once a month!

You may be a manager that already does this. Well done.

I once had a manager who entered the building and went straight to his office. He spoke to virtually no one all day.

I have also worked with teams where the manager is a mythical figure, like the Loch Ness Monster. Some people claim to have seen it, but sightings are so rare that most doubt its existence.

#2. Ask 3 simple questions each week

Regularly engaging with your team is vital. Indeed, research suggests that the more conversations staff have with their managers, the more engaged they become.

But if you want to motivate people and to ‘get things done’, a powerful approach is to weekly, send each team member an email with the following questions:

  • What did you do last week?
  • What are you working on this week?
  • What can I do to help you?

These questions help people keep on track. They show you’re looking for progress, but you’re also supportive. And when a team member shares what they have done in the past, you can use this information to acknowledge their efforts.

#3. Give more praise more often

When you see issues that need resolving, you have a responsibility as a manager to fix them. It would help if you spoke up. It would help if you also learned how to coach and help people develop. But probably your most vital task is to spend more time, much more time, praising people.

Praise when people put in the effort.

Praise when people show improvement. And praise when team members help each other and work well together.

Genuine praise makes them feel valued. It lifts their spirits, puts a spring in their steps and encourages them to give their best. It can set off a positive spiral in the workplace, from which everyone benefits.

Of course, you shouldn’t praise everything however, whenever you can, find a reason to praise. Make it one of your daily habits as a manager; before long, you will get feedback on how much happier and more productive the workplace seems to be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *