Mastering Feedback Skills: The Key to Effective Remote Leadership
The modern business landscape has experienced a flurry of changes in recent years, with remote work becoming a popular option for companies across industries. With this shift comes a newfound ability to prioritize talent, skills, and knowledge over physical location, offering businesses greater flexibility and access to top-tier professionals. However, even as organizations embrace new work environments, providing effective employee feedback remains a critical challenge in remote work settings.
Employee feedback is essential not only for a company’s success but also for fostering a supportive and growth-oriented workplace culture. In the virtual realm, this can be especially complex, requiring managers to navigate communication barriers and mitigate misunderstandings. Despite its importance, many managers struggle with providing feedback, and the remote work environment can compound this issue further.
To overcome this challenge and drive productivity, remote leaders must prioritize mastering feedback skills. By following these three simple tips, managers can provide clear, consistent, and effective feedback to their remote teams, even from behind a screen.
Effective Communication: The Art of Balancing Assertiveness and Empathy
Miscommunication is a common issue in all forms of communication, but it can be even more prevalent in virtual messaging platforms where nonverbal cues are easily lost. In remote conversations, tone of voice, posture, and balance can make a significant difference when giving feedback.
Dr. Dan Harrison, the founder and CEO of Harrison Assessments, a cloud-based technology company that offers secure, job-specific predictive analytics to enhance candidate and employee experiences, believes that balancing compassion and assertiveness is the key to both business and employee success.
“Providing employee feedback requires maintaining warmth and approachability while enforcing company policies to ensure that work is completed correctly and on time,” Harrison notes. “If you jump straight into harsh criticism, employees may become defensive and unreceptive. Conversely, if you only praise them, they will never grow.”
It is also crucial to communicate to employees that feedback is not only beneficial to the company but also to their own success and career growth. The manner and frequency of feedback communication are important, even when in a Zoom meeting.
“You need to be a compassionate enforcer who can adapt and respond to the employee’s actions,” Harrison says. “If they improve, continue to support and encourage them. However, if they do not improve, you must identify the root cause of their performance issues. Ask them what they require to excel at their work and show that you are invested in their success.
Promoting Clarity in Remote Conversations: Encourage Employee Feedback
In both remote and in-person conversations, it is essential to set aside time to ensure that messages are received and understood correctly. However, with remote conversations, there is a higher risk of messages being lost in translation, making it crucial to emphasize summarizing key takeaways.
To guarantee effective communication and comprehension, take note of any significant points or decisions made during the conversation to clarify that everyone is on the same page. If time is limited, request that employees email their top three takeaways by the end of the day to ensure that everyone is in agreement.
This approach promotes mutual understanding, highlights any misunderstandings, and encourages collaboration and inclusivity in decision-making. When employees have the opportunity to reflect on the discussion and provide their insights, it fosters active participation and strengthens their sense of ownership and responsibility for the results. Achieving this level of mutual understanding can be challenging through email or other written communication channels.
Provide feedback that inspires growth
Constructive feedback is the key to helping employees improve their performance and reach their full potential. For remote workers, it’s important to have a structured process that involves specific, actionable feedback with measurable goals.
Establishing a feedback schedule, such as regular check-ins or performance evaluations, can provide a clear path for employee development. This way, employees are not caught off guard and are able to anticipate areas of growth. Consistency in providing feedback also establishes trust in the working relationship, and encourages open, honest communication.
It’s important to provide a clear agenda before the conversation starts and keep the discussion focused on specific issues. Providing examples of areas that need improvement, or redirecting work behavior, can be helpful in facilitating growth. Feedback that is overly personal or too critical can make employees defensive and less receptive to change.
To be effective, feedback should focus on specific behaviors, practical skills, and examples that would help remote employees adapt to new ways of doing things. This could include tips for responding to emails or messages, effective communication strategies for different situations, or improving listening skills during virtual meetings.
In the virtual world, it’s important to use positive phrasing to make feedback less intimidating. Focusing on what employees should do instead of what they shouldn’t do can make feedback more beneficial for both the employee and the manager. Positive phrasing that highlights the employee’s unique strengths and contributions can further optimize this process.
Remote work brings its own communication challenges. Virtual feedback requires extra care to ensure that the message is received as intended. By setting aside time for effective communication, using appropriate tools, having a clear agenda, and taking note of key points, leaders can ensure that their remote teams are fully engaged and on the same page, even on small screens.