Delivering constructive feedback is not easy to do, even when you have opportunities to be face-to-face. Working virtually means few, if any in-person interactions, but that does not mean you’re off the hook when it comes to sharing direct, honest and caring feedback when needed.

  1. Set clear expectations. Regardless of the location of the feedback, setting clear expectations up front is key. Doing that WITH the person, not TO the person is preferable, as they will be doing the job, not you. That sort of mutual-expectations-setting process does not mean that the person gets to determine everything. It simply means that the organization’s and the individual’s needs both come into play when setting expectations.
  2. Delegate well. When you know what results (and follow-on impact) are necessary for success, there is also a need for clarity around boundaries, best practices, timelines, etc. Make sure that your delegation is strong and that you follow through on checking in with the person. What do you do when, in spite of a brilliant delegation, the person doesn’t meet expectations? This can be tricky to do at the best of times. When there is physical separation, giving timely, caring, honest and direct feedback can be even more difficult. Tips 3-7 outline best practices for that situation.
  3. Opt for as close to in-person as possible. When feedback is needed, a conversation is essential. You may think you know what’s going on, and you don’t know all of the context behind the feedback. So a conversation (not an email, which is one-way communication) is vital, preferably in person. If you can’t meet face-to-face, set up a virtual meeting with video so you can see one another. Visual cues like body language will help you attain mutual understanding.
  4. Do it as soon as possible. Feedback should be given immediately, or as close in time as realistic. Do give yourself some breathing room if you’re emotional about the issue. Don’t wait more than 24 hours in most situations.
  5. Stick with the behavior and impact. A simple connecting of the dots of what you observed and its impact will suffice. Don’t share your assumptions around motivation, extenuating circumstances, etc.
  6. Ask open-ended questions. Invite clarifications about the situation, recognizing that you may not fully understand what happened and why.
  7. Close the loop on next steps. Make sure you both have the same picture of what will be done, by whom and when.

“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored,” said Tim Fargo. Your job when giving feedback is to ensure learning and improvement. If you find you’re revisiting the same issue again and again, true learning has not happened or you’re having a hard time letting it go. Figuring out which is critical to both you and your direct report.

Have a great method for delivering feedback when virtual? Comment below or message us.


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