U.S. businesses spend $105 billion per year handling poorly performing employees. This unfortunate data indicates that subpar employees can harm a business both culturally and financially.
So how can entrepreneurs avoid or correct this issue? By building a company culture that embraces opportunities to share feedback.
Make Your Feedback Constructive
Continuous, transparent employee feedback is great, but not all feedback is created equal. Constructive criticism encourages people and incentivizes improvement, while non-constructive (i.e., destructive) feedback actually inhibits growth. Understanding the differences between these approaches will enhance your interactions with employees and expose their true potential.
To reach that true potential, be sure your feedback is:
- Direct. Providing feedback can be uncomfortable, especially when someone needs a major behavioral adjustment. Dancing around an issue will only lead to confusion, but being direct will improve comprehension and lead to real change.
- Solutions-oriented. Feedback becomes destructive when you tear employees down without building them back up. Creating a solutions-oriented conversation will help you and your employees focus less on poor behavior and more on ways they can improve.
- Unemotional. Are you feeling angry or resentful? You may want to consider giving feedback at another time or having someone else address the issue. The goal of providing feedback is to inspire employees to redeem themselves. If you’re harboring ill feelings toward an employee, you should step away from the situation.
How to Build a Culture of Constructive Feedback
When employees and leaders feel comfortable communicating with one another about what they’re doing well and what they can improve upon, it creates a culture of openness and accountability. But there are some practices you must build into your culture to nurture this type of environment:
1. Lead by example. In his book, What You’re Really Meant to Do, Harvard Business School’s Robert Kaplan presents the idea that as business leaders become more senior, people are less likely to give them feedback or address shortcomings. Kaplan emphasizes how important it is for business leaders to actively seek feedback from team members, which allows them to grow and creates an environment where giving and receiving constructive feedback is normalized.
Leaders must also understand how to receive feedback well. This involves listening without interruption, asking questions for clarification, respectfully acknowledging what the person is saying, and taking time to think before reacting.
2. Deliver bad news constructively. There is always room for growth and improvement. People can’t fix problems if you don’t communicate them clearly. Underperforming for an extended period of time can also make someone feel insecure when tackling new projects.
When delivering bad news, avoid criticism, and state the facts instead. Talk about the behavior — not the person. After you’ve communicated the facts, provide solutions-oriented recommendations.
3. Make positive feedback a priority. People can receive too much criticism, but they can never receive too much encouragement. Celebrate the things your team is doing right on a regular basis. Schedule weekly staff meetings and encourage department leaders to submit weekly team victories. It’s important to celebrate company wins and emphasize that those accomplishments required team effort. Tools like Dunwello are making this easier.
4. Set company goals with your team. As your company grows and develops, set goals with your team. Once everyone is striving for the same mutually developed goals, it will be easier to hold one another accountable and give constructive feedback if others aren’t measuring up.
As the leader, you have the opportunity to build a unified and unstoppable team. By creating a work environment founded on constructive feedback, you can push your employees — and yourself — to grow personally and professionally. So probe your employees, open your ears, and find out what you can do better. The spike in performance and productivity might surprise you.
Brent Grinna is the founder and CEO of EverTrue, a leading social donor management platform. EverTrue harnesses social data to help higher education institutions raise more money and better engage alumni. Connect with EverTrue on LinkedIn and Twitter.