Best Practices HHS Leadership

Delivering Constructive Feedback to Employees

By Brian Weed, CEO, Healthcare

While positive affirmation is beneficial, it’s important to acknowledge the necessity of providing others with constructive feedback when needed. Honest feedback is what can help us all to grow and learn from our mistakes. When opportunities for improvement arise, sometimes the instinct is to gloss over the issue and move on. While that may seem like the easy way out, it really ends up benefiting no one. Major issues and difficult conversations will happen, and it’s important that you’re prepared to provide honest feedback when needed.

Utilizing the Sandwich Method for Minor Issues

In my last blog post, I spoke about the sandwich approach. In this method, you start by providing positive feedback for what the individual is doing well, offer some constructive criticism for what needs to be improved, and then end on a high note with more appreciation.  This approach can help you let employees know that you value their hard work while also encouraging them to keep striving for more. This method works best for small critiques and for encouraging growth rather than for speaking to major issues. 

Addressing Major Situations with Direct Feedback

Difficult discussionsUnlike minor issues, when a major concern arises the approach needs to be different.  Here are three important things to keep in mind to make sure that your constructive messaging is well received when dealing with these situations.

    1. 1. Before you bring up the issue, make sure you have your emotions in check. If you’re upset, you may end up saying things that you regret and that don’t help to improve the situation. Take some time to cool off and gather your thoughts before approaching the issue, and then deliver the feedback in a calm and straightforward manner.

  1. 2. Next, focus on the issue rather than the person. If people feel like they’re being attacked they’ll get defensive and won’t be able to hear what you have to say. By concentrating on the specific behavior that caused the issue, you can be impartial and provide the individual with helpful feedback to truly understand what went wrong. 

  2. 3. Be sure that the individual knows that you still have faith in their abilities. Hearing that you made a mistake can be hard, so it’s important to let the person know that you still see them as a valuable player. We all make mistakes, but by showing your support you can show the individual that you believe that they can continue to learn and improve.

Turning a Problem into a Solution

Constructive feedback involves both identifying the issue and providing coaching on how to move forward in an effective way. Don't simply point out the issue, give a few words of encouragement, and be done with it. Instead, support your employee in an actionable way. After addressing the issue, help them move on from focusing on the problem to focusing on the solution. Author Terry Goodkind put it best: “Think of the solution, not the problem. If your mind was filled only with thoughts of why you were going to lose, then you couldn't think of how to win.” Create a solution-focused culture rather than a problem-focused culture. This will propel forward movement towards growth and success rather than letting people get stuck in their problems.

When it comes to delivering feedback, there are two approaches that can work well for different situations, the sandwich method and the constructive feedback method. By using these two methods properly when handling minor and major issues, you’ll find that your employees will be receptive to feedback and will continue to grow and develop.