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Remote work is forming the backbone of American business, and leaders must adapt their communication skills accordingly. While it may have been acceptable to do monthly reviews or in-person interviews before, new ways must be learned to properly keep up with our advancing technology. Novel Coworking covers tips, tools, and strategies for providing constructive feedback to your team.


Giving Positive Feedback

Research has shown that positive feedback can motivate employees to perform better. In a study by Harvard Business Review, high performing teams shared nearly six times more positive feedback than average teams, while low performing teams share nearly twice as much negative feedback. As the saying goes, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.

When sharing feedback, be mindful of the communication channel. Understand that praising someone over a call is inherently different from saying the same thing over an instant message. Consider tone and voice, for example. Text-based feedback relies heavily on context, punctuation, and vocabulary. Whereas voice or video-based feedback relies more on the way the message is spoken or delivered (eye contact, body language, facial expressions, etc.)

Create Slack channels (or similar communication channels) for praising team members. Too often on our messaging apps, team leaders focus on assigning tasks or following up on a project, yet forget to give praise where it’s due. Developing dedicated spaces for positive feedback can be highly motivating and rewarding.


Tactics for Corrective Feedback

Interns and veteran employees all make mistakes— it’s only human. But how leaders react and respond accordingly determines the future success of a company. Corrective feedback is crucial to overall improvement, but it can also be easier said than done.

Instead of reacting emotionally when someone messes up, analyze the problem as if you were a neutral third-party. Ask yourself if the issue may be environmental— such as a process error or unclear instructions. Ask your team what they think may have gone wrong, so you may have varying perspectives. Finally, ask the team what could be done differently to prevent the mistake in the future.

For example, a customer may leave as a result of a bad interaction with a remote representative. The knee jerk reaction would be to blame the representative for handling the situation poorly. But after taking a second to understand the situation, other contributing factors may arise, such as a faulty system, or lack of training.

It’s also important to find out the employee’s preference for receiving feedback. Some may prefer more direct communication, such as a video call, while others may prefer a phone call. The best way to find out is to ask.

Depending on the situation, you may also want to consider 1:1 sessions or team meetings. The former may be more appropriate for serious problems or direct, task-based feedback, whereas team meetings may be better for large, operational efficiencies under a project.

Finally, correct timing means everything. Giving corrective feedback also involves sharing the feedback at the ideal time. This varies from person to person, project to project. At times it may be a one-off discussion after the task or project, and other times it may require monthly meetings to check in on the progress. Time your feedback in a manner consistent with the nature of the feedback.


Feedback Strategies

Here are a few different yet effective models for sharing your feedback with your team:

SBI Feedback Model

This model is a simple and direct way to act on the information that you have. SBI stands for Situation, Behavior, and Impact. Feedback is broken down as follows:

  • Situation – What happened? Explain the problem clearly, noting the time, place, and other important contextual factors (“Yesterday morning during the client meeting…”)
  • Behavior – How did people behave? Explain what you can observe from how people discuss or act regarding the situation. (“…You made an insensitive remark…”)
  • Impact – What happened afterward? Explain the aftermath, reactions, and consequences of the situation. (“…It was frustrating because it was unkind and unprofessional.”)

SBI Feedback is useful because it breaks down the problem and effect in a clear and understandable way, and it focuses on what people can observe, rather than assumptions about the person’s character.

360-Degree Feedback

We’ve discussed the value of 360-degree feedback in the past because we genuinely believe it to be a useful way to collect feedback from all levels in a company. Unlike a single evaluation, which is subject to bias and myopia, 360-degree feedback takes into account various perspectives and relationships, providing a more comprehensive evaluation in the end.

How does it work? It starts with a survey that asks a person to evaluate the subject on a variety of metrics— performance, behavior, strengths and weaknesses, skills, and goals.

Then, a leader must observe the various interactions the subject has— from leaders and supervisors to colleagues and customers. Once there is a full list, the survey can be sent to each individual.

Learn more about 360-Degree Feedback in our guide here.


Personal Coaching

More often than not, human error can be attributed to poor communication and training. Instead of being reactive, giving feedback after something happens, coaches can be proactive, and seek out problems before they arise. They can often spot patterns and red flags before anyone else because they’ve been there before.

Another benefit of coaching is the additional attention given to each individual. Coaches are in a better position to ask questions about why someone did something, rather than what they did wrong. That’s because coaches are able to develop closer relationships with a subject than someone conducting an evaluation.

If remote work is here to stay, then we must also develop new practices and techniques for communicating more effectively. In the past, leaders were limited to phone calls and emails, but today video conferencing has made conversations more interactive than ever before. New models are being developed on how individuals share and receive feedback, providing more context and nuance to human interactions.

Remote work doesn’t have to feel remote at all. All the team needs are systems to share constructive feedback clearly, quickly, and consistently. You would be amazed at how much it can affect a business.