Teach me to give feedback

    Yesterday's programmer Ivan became the leader of the group. It doesn’t matter whether he desired it or was asked, but his responsibilities have changed a lot. Now Ivan is responsible not only for himself, but also for his team. Like any other leader, first of all, he should learn to give subordinates constructive feedback so that in case of undesirable behavior and subsequent debriefing, the employee will work on the mistakes and at the same time not quit with the words: “My manager is a bad person (censorship ) ".

    This article is written primarily for novice executives. I hope their more experienced colleagues will also find something interesting for themselves. Repetition is the mother of learning!

    So, let's imagine the situation: Ivan’s team has a programmer, Sasha, who prepared the patch and applied the change to the general branch without code reviews and tests. The next day, the build was assembled with a critical error in the functionality that Sasha was developing. Ivan needs to give his subordinates feedback on the problem.

    Following the rules below will help Ivan as much as possible to prepare for a meeting with Sasha and at the same time achieve good results.

    1. Feedback should be transmitted immediately.

    Once this negative situation has occurred, Ivan should respond quickly, not wait for time. The explanation is simple:

    • Sasha will switch to other tasks, it will be difficult for him to remember what he did wrong a few weeks ago
    • further, Sasha may have the opinion that Ivan is biased towards him and just finds fault, wants to “squeeze” him out of the team

    In this case, Sasha will simply not be ready to accept Ivan’s comments and will take a defensive position.

    2. You should think in advance about the place of the conversation.

    Do not analyze employee mistakes in public! This is the worst that Ivan could think of. Criticism in the presence of the whole team will only create a barrier between him and his subordinate.
    There is a general rule: scold personally, praise publicly. Ivan is going to give the employee negative feedback, so you should look for a secluded place to talk in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s better not to be the head’s office, because an employee may close from the start.

    3. The content of the conversation should be considered.

    This surprises many, but Ivan needs to prepare for such conversations. One wrong word or action, and Sasha can be lost to him, as an employee, forever.

    It is necessary to think over the very structure of the conversation, who, what, in what sequence will speak. Sometimes it’s wise to write a short conversation plan on paper or on your phone so as not to miss any important details and not deviate from the originally planned conversation plan.

    4. Be friendly

    If this is the first time you have met a person this day, be sure to say hello to him, let your facial expression be natural. If you already saw each other, ask (not to distract from current affairs, I recommend asking in the chat) if the person is busy and ask permission to move away for 15-20 minutes to talk. Such a respectful attitude of the leader usually bribes and gives Ivan an additional bonus for an adequate perception of Sasha’s criticism.

    Feedback is better perceived if the conversation proceeds in a calm and friendly atmosphere. The task of Ivan is not to offend or scold Sasha, saying that he "did not live up to expectations." Ivan’s task is to point out to Sasha the problem, help in the work on the mistakes and prevent the occurrence of such situations in the future.

    Contact the employee by name, show your interest in the fact that next time he did the job better.

    5. First, give a little praise.

    At the beginning of the conversation, say a few words about the good qualities of the interlocutor or about his work, which he performed recently. It very rarely happens that everything is very bad. Such an introduction will help Ivan set Sasha on a friendly wave, relieve tension in this situation, which is not quite standard for him.

    You do not need to start immediately with the minuses, because the purpose of the conversation is not to discourage the desire to work, but to stimulate to improve work and achieve better results.

    6. Skip to the main content of the conversation.

    Here we should smoothly move on to the problematic issue, which was the main purpose of the conversation. Ivan should calmly convey to Sasha his comments on his work. It is always unpleasant to listen to criticism in your address, so Ivan should endure the conversation in an even tone, without turning to personalities. Impermissible or derogatory expressions, command phrases and unfriendly remarks are unacceptable. Otherwise, Sasha at any moment can close in a defensive position and deny all the arguments of Ivan, which were reasonable and objective.

    7. Clearly state your comments.

    If Ivan will express himself in general phrases without explaining what exactly is wrong, the employee is unlikely to be able to make any necessary changes to his work. Sasha must clearly and clearly understand what his leader is talking about. Otherwise, Sasha will most likely think: “Ivan is a bad person (censorship) , he himself does not know what he wants!”

    Be sure to clearly state the unpleasant consequences of the current problem situation. Explain how this situation affected the rest of the team. For example, the team could be forced to stay at work the next day and fix bugs for a successful release.

    8. Find out the position of a subordinate

    Immediately after the employee informed the problem point, do not rush to offer your solution. Allow subordinates to express their point of view. Perhaps you do not know something, your data may not be complete, and you can scold a person from scratch.
    For Ivan, it is important that a dialogue is obtained, then it will be easier to understand each other and come to an agreement. You should find out the reasons for what happened from the position of Sasha.

    In the case indicated by us, there could be a deadline, everyone sweated their faces to catch him. Sasha underwent a review from one of the team, but, for example, in a hurry, traces of this review did not remain in JIRA. He could also perform design testing, however, five minutes after Sasha, another programmer committed and his patch broke Sasha’s functionality. (Autotests decide, yes, but not everywhere they are).

    9. State your position.

    If there are no “extenuating" circumstances, the feedback from Ivan should be tough and clear.

    If there are “mitigating” circumstances, this is an opportunity to jointly solve problems with Sasha that arose during the performance of the task and to avoid their occurrence in the future.
    Ivan should remember that he gives feedback to improve the results of Sasha’s work in the future. People tend to make mistakes, you need to be able to give them a second chance. The main thing, I repeat, should not be personal! No one is inclined to listen to opinions about their mental and professional abilities. If a person is offended by a phrase, it will be very difficult to make peace with him. Therefore, Sasha should hear from Ivan that this is not "he is bad," but "his work was poorly done."

    Sasha can suggest ways to solve this problem and this will be the best option, because he immediately takes responsibility for the situation and its elimination. However, it so happens that the employee may not understand how to solve the problem and avoid it in the future. Here the leader should come to the rescue and state his point of view.

    10. Control your feelings and emotions.

    Leaders should respect, not be afraid. Emotion, scream, checkmate, etc. - it is always a sign of powerlessness of the leader. Ivan needs to be calm, restrained and self-confident. Excellence should not be demonstrated; the employee himself should feel it.

    11. Watch your non-verbal signals

    90% - this is how a person speaks, not whatHe says. Therefore, Ivan should pay attention to his intonation, facial expressions, gestures.

    Ivan and each leader should be interested in the topic of non-verbal signals and try to follow simple tips. For example, closed poses with arms crossed or fingers bound should be avoided. Open palms will speak of sincerity, general relaxed behavior.

    12. Consider the individual characteristics of employees

    . Each employee needs an individual approach and it is important to think it over even at the stage of preparation for a conversation. You can joke with someone, and he will perceive the claims normally, and someone will touch your ironic tone. Uncertain newcomers should be encouraged, and strict demands should be made on those who knowingly do not work.

    13. Ask the employee to independently summarize the meeting.

    This increases the likelihood that you understood each other correctly, corrective actions are clear and a promise is received that such a situation will not happen in the future. If Sasha sums up correctly, he thereby assumes responsibility for jointly worked out decisions. Ivan can correct Sasha if he misunderstood something.

    14. At the end of the conversation, thank the employee and leave on a positive note.

    Ivan should thank Sasha for taking the time to listen to him. Ivan must necessarily inform that he believes in Sasha, that he will take into account the comments. You should not be very persistent (especially if this is the first "miss" of the employee). Let him know that he is fully responsible for himself, that you do not doubt his prudence, and you only want to help him.

    Successful constructive feedback to all managers!

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