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Business Coaching: How to Give Feedback Verbally

A skilled manager is also a business coach who knows how to verbally deliver constructive feedback. The phrasing and tone of your verbal feedback is important, because how you say something often carries more weight than what you have to say. Ideally, feedback is given by talking live to the employee — either face-to-face or by phone when you physically can't be together.

Consider these pointers when offering performance feedback:

  • Be direct when delivering your message. Get to the point and avoid beating around the bush. For many managers, bush-beating tends to be more of an issue when giving negative feedback than when giving positive feedback. Both should be given in a straightforward manner.

  • Avoid "need to" phrases, which send implied messages that something that didn't go well. For example, "Jane, you need to get your reports turned in on time, and you need to spell check them." This message isn't really performance feedback. It implies that Jane did not do something well with her reports, but it doesn't report exactly to Jane what happened. Providing clarity on what occurred is the aim of feedback.

  • Be sincere and avoid giving mixed messages. Sincerity says that you mean what you say with care and respect. Mixed messages are referred to as "yes, but" messages. For example, "John, you have worked hard on this project, but. . . ." What follows is something the person isn't doing well and is the real point of the message. The attempt to be nice first — sugar-coating the message — is negated, and the real sincerity of the message is diluted.

    The word "but," along with its cousins "however" and "although," when said in the middle of a thought, create contradictions or mixed messages. In essence, putting "but" in the middle of you’re your saying tells the other person, "Don't believe a thing I said before."

  • Give the feedback person-to-person, not through messengers of technology. E-mail and voice mail don't work for constructive feedback because they don't allow live, two-way conversation to follow. Nor does the sincerity of the message come across as well, whether it's positive or negative feedback. Talk one-on-one with people when giving feedback — most of them don't bite.

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