Giving staff feedback can strike fear in the heart of many practice managers. It’s uncomfortable. For some, it feels confrontational.
Which is probably why Gallup data show that nearly half (47 percent) of employees say they received feedback from their manager "a few times or less" in the past year.1
With a bit of insight from brain research and a little practice, managers of any experience level can make feedback conversations more comfortable. If your goal is to support staff learning and improve performance, here are 4 tips that can help you get it right.
1. Make it frequent, short, and specific.
More than 50 percent of Millennials and nearly 40 percent of non-Millennials prefer receiving feedback monthly. And nearly 20 percent of Millennials say they’d like feedback weekly. In this same study, Millennials said that their number one source of development is their manager, but only 46 percent say they are getting the feedback they need from him or her.2
Don’t wait until the annual performance appraisal; make feedback an ongoing conversation. The discussions can be as short as five minutes - as long as you focus on specifics.
Trending: The Basics of Incident-to Billing
For example, instead of, “great job!” you might try, “I heard you diffusing that patient’s anger when we ran 40 minutes late. You did a great job staying calm and explaining the situation.”
And if the feedback is a learning opportunity, think like a coach: Let them know what they are doing well, and how that impacts the outcome on their productivity, the patient experience, etc. Then, teach by asking questions that ignite insight and learning.
For instance, instead of, “I heard you talking with that patient about her bill. Here’s a better way…,” you might try, “I heard you talking with that patient about her bill. You stayed very composed. Why do you think she got upset? What might you do differently next time?”
2. Build on existing skills instead of delivering “constructive criticism.”
Research indicates a rather shocking truth when you consider how long managers have been delivering constructive criticism to employees. Not only does telling people how to improve keep them from exceling and thriving, it actually hinders learning and growth.3
Neurologically, we grow more in our areas of greater ability. Science shows that our brains grow far more neurons and synaptic connections in places where they already have the most neurons and synaptic connections. In other words, people learn when they recognize how they might improve on something they already know and understand. Thus, it’s more effective to capitalize on what staff do well and grow their skills from that place of strength.4
I remember a practice manager who was quite introverted. She didn’t do well at training or developing the staff, but she excelled at data analysis. Instead of using “constructive criticism” to improve the manager's training and relationship management skills, we stepped up her authority over financial and report analysis. We also moved hiring, training, and onboarding to a supervisor with a workstyle better suited to these tasks.
You can’t build up staff from a place of weakness. Leverage and build on staff strengths instead of trying to develop skills they have limited aptitude for.
Up Next: Word Choices and Feedback Styles
It's the Manager, Jim Clifton, Jim Harter, 2019, p 80.
Millennials Want to Be Coached at Work, Harvard Business Review, Karie Willyerd, February 27, 2015. https://hbr.org/2015/02/millennials-want-to-be-coached-at-work
The Feedback Fallacy, Harvard Business Review,Marcus Buckingham, Ashley Goodall, March–April 2019, https://hbr.org/2019/03/the-feedback-fallacy