Six tips for giving effective feedback

20 February 2024

A key leadership skill is the ability to deliver both positive and constructive feedback. We asked our global community of Mindbeat coaches for their advice on avoiding common mistakes when giving feedback during performance reviews. 

Performance reviews are vital for helping employees maintain focus while evaluating factors such as overall workload, motivation, communication skills and team contributions. 

How often appraisals take place will vary depending on company culture or the potential impact (good or bad) someone’s day-to-day role can have on a company’s profitability. 

It may be enough to conduct a formal yearly evaluation with more frequent, informal reviews like a quarterly check-in to let staff know how they’re doing. If someone has set targets though, more regular appraisals may be required to keep them on track or to discuss ways to improve. 

No matter how regularly you carry out employee reviews, as a leader, your ability to communicate feedback, deliver criticism or praise, and rate performance is an important skill. 

And who better to advise on giving effective feedback than our global community of coaches? We asked them how to avoid the most common mistakes leaders make when giving feedback during performance reviews. This is what they had to say:

1. Inform, don’t judge

If the recipient becomes defensive or argumentative during a performance review, your feedback may be too judgemental or authoritative. You can’t make someone like or agree with what you’re saying but you can increase the chances that your feedback will be well received rather than rejected. 

Avoid apportioning blame. Instead, inform the receiver about the impact their actions are having on colleagues or team performance. This will empower them to make changes on their own and increase the chances that they’ll accept your appraisal. 

2. Don’t be vague

Steer clear of generalisations, cliches and exaggerations like ‘always’ and ‘never’ (they’ll always bring up that one time in response). 

The best way to encourage someone to carry on producing great performances is to analyse their actions, which led to effectiveness or success, and then communicate them clearly so that they can continue to repeat these productive behavioural patterns. 

3. Stick to what you know

Performance coaches are often told how an appraisal became heated when a third party’s opinion was relayed as fact by someone’s line manager. 

Don’t bring other people’s opinions into performance reviews. It confuses the recipient, puts them on the defensive, and leaves them wondering why their colleagues are talking about them behind their backs. 

4. Be mindful of tone

Performance reviews are no place for inappropriate humour, sarcasm, arrogance or domineering language. 

Telling someone their job is in jeopardy doesn’t reinforce positive actions or illustrate bad ones – it only creates animosity. Keep the tone formal, friendly and to the point. 

5. Ask the right questions

Never assume you know what’s going on in somebody’s life outside of work. Instead of delivering feedback straight away, take the time to ask questions for a better understanding of someone’s home life, stress and anxiety levels. 

When you’re made aware of extenuating circumstances, you may decide to adjust your appraisal. Good leadership means being able to adapt to the unexpected. 

6. Read the room

Some people will understand your message straight away and wish to discuss a course of action. Others will need more time to absorb it. They may wish to go away and discuss possible solutions with their performance coach. 

Appraisals should always be a two-way conversation so listen to what the recipient has to say as well as understand how they say it. You can learn a lot about how to motivate or improve someone’s performance by gauging their reactions and what’s important to them. 

If you’d like our expert coaches to provide your management teams with the tools they need to become more successful leaders, request a free demo of Mindbeat today.