How to give feedback to your helper without turning into a nag

Employees need feedback. Some employers think "I told them clearly once, and I wrote them a long job description. Isn't that enough?" NO, it's not enough. You don't get things the first time you hear them and neither does your helper. I listen to an excellent podcast called "Manager Tools". The suggestions below are a variation of their excellent guidelines on giving employee feedback.

The purpose of feedback: It's about future behavior, NOT past behavior. The purpose of feedback is NOT to berate or criticize your employee for past mistakes. The entire purpose is to help them perform better in the FUTURE. 

The timing of feedback: Feedback should be given within one week of the event. If you wait too long, the employee won't remember the event. If you forget, don't worry, the employee is likely to do the same thing again.

Ask permission to give feedback: I can hear some of our customers now thinking "No way! I'm the boss. I'll give feedback when I want to give feedback." Well, this advice may fall on deaf ears, but feedback will be better received if you ask permission first. What does it cost you to be polite and say, "Polly, I want to give you some feedback on dinner last night. Have you got a few minutes?" 

Focus on Behavior and Outcomes: Do NOT talk about motives. You don't know their heart. Assume they have a good heart, that they are here to serve you well and provide for their family in the process. Talk about behavior and outcomes, then tell them what behavior needs to change or be continued.

"Polly, I want to talk to you about this morning. Have you got a minute? Yesterday you woke up at 6:30 instead of 6:00. Because you were late, I had to help get the kids out the door, and I myself was late to work. Your late rising caused me to experience a lot of pressure and stress, and to be late to work myself. In the future, I expect you to be up by 6 a.m. OK? Thank you."

" Polly, can I talk to you about dinner last night? I thought the soup was really delicious. I hope that next time you'll make it just that way again. In the stir fry, the celery was chopped too thick. The result was that it was not cooked properly and was hard to chew and swallow. Next time please cut the celery 1/2 again as small. Do you understand what I mean?  Would you like me to show you the technique for chopping the vegetables again? Thanks."

"Polly, I want to talk to you about the laundry. When you ironed the clothes, you burned my blouse. I bought that blouse when I was in Canada last summer, and it is one of my favorites. Now I won't be able to enjoy wearing it, and I won't be able to find another like it here in Hong Kong. I'm also going to have to spend time and money to buy a replacement. Next time, I need you to read the label (show her the label) on each garment before you iron it. If it says "don't iron", please don't iron it. If it says "iron on low heat" use the low heat setting (show her on the iron). Do you understand what I need from you? Thanks."

Read the above examples outloud. How long did it take? Feedback doesn't need to take a long time. If you're talking more than 1 or 2 minutes, you are probably talking too much. Don't vent your emotions on your employees. Focus on behaviors, outcomes and expected change. You should be able to smile when you give feedback. If you feel emotional, then wait for a time when you are calm to give feedback. Why don't you give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Allan @ Arrow