Why is it so Hard to Give Feedback?

One of the main areas we help a lot of store managers with is, the ability to provide effective feedback that actually works. The style of feedback we teach results in approx 99% of staff being open to hearing the feedback which they accept and either continue to do a great job or improve to the level you require. So what’s so hard about giving feedback? Here are the main three reasons that we come across:

  • Managers don’t know how to give feedback. What we find is most managers have never been taught how to give feedback. It’s just expected when you take on the role of a manager you’ll know magically how to give feedback. New managers will often use a similar style to what they received from their manager and either harden it or soften it. Often their manager was never shown how to give effective feedback either, so the trend continues.
  • It’s easier to just avoid it. A number of managers even shy away from giving feedback as they don’t want to have to deal with the fallout. Their assumption is the staff member will not react well, there will be an argument so they leave it. This is a disaster, by not discussing the issue the manager is effectively saying “it’s ok to do that wrong”. It becomes very difficult later on to call that person on this issue if they have been doing it wrong for a long time.
  • They are unaware there is an issue. This is a major reason why there is poor customer service and things are not done the way they should be – managers don’t know it’s not being done correctly. Often they are too busy doing other tasks or it’s not a focus for them. If they can’t identify when things are not being done correctly, how will the staff member ever improve? Put simply – they won’t.

Why feedback is so important.

Most of us want to do a great job, we go to work to do the best job possible, how could we know if we are doing well or not without feedback. It’s a fundamental human need, to know where we are at. I believe 99.9% of people want to improve or be told they are doing a great job, so it’s up to us as managers to fulfill this need.

According to Michele Luke, from the University of Sussex, “people tend to respond better to just positive feedback rather than anything negative or critical.” No big surprise there, however, her research found out that over time the most satisfying feedback was improvement feedback. This type of feedback which starts out identifying how the person could improve and then catching them doing it right when they succeed resulted in a stronger sense of self-improvement.

From our point of view, we always suggest you catch your staff doing it right – focus on what they are doing right and tell them. Do this frequently, particularly if it’s a task or process they are not yet consistent at. When they get it right tell them, rather than wait until they get it wrong. Everyone responds well to positive feedback.

If they aren’t doing it right at all then obviously you can’t praise them, so follow these simple steps for the method that works with most staff:

  • Identify the issue, focus on the behaviour not the personality
  • Ask them how they could improve – resist the massive urge to tell them the answer. They have to think and you get more buy in if they come up with the answer.
  • Ask them why they think it’s important to do that task/step. Similar to step 2, they have to think and gets them involved.
  • Ask them if they are ok to do this correct step/task next time
  • Follow up and catch them doing it right.

If you follow these five simple steps your ability to give effective feedback will improve dramatically. Your team will be more open and positive, and you’ll improve the way things are done.

A great result all round I reckon.


Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Retail Solution” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.

Roger Simpson and the team at The Retail Solution have provided nearly 2 decades of unparalleled expertise in retail consulting for Australian businesses.
 
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