04 May 2021

Effective Feedback Follows SMART Principles

Great leaders know the importance of providing feedback, yet many leaders and managers deliver it poorly, if at all. Feedback is far more effective when it follows the same SMART principles as goal setting. ‘Nice job’, ‘Good work’, ‘Well done’ sound great on the surface, but the sentiment is short lived because of delivery shortfalls. Equally, ‘That wasn’t good enough’, ‘you could do better’ or ‘pick up your act’ to improve performance equally fall flat because of poor delivery.

Why is this important? Because if you are taking the time to say something to your team, you want it to be as effective, targeted and long lasting as possible. Consider the acronym for goal setting – SMART – for your feedback as well.

🔹 Specific. Be specific! One of the greatest differences that leaders can make to their feedback is to be more specific. What exactly did you like or dislike? What behaviour? You liked the report I submitted – was it the accuracy, the format, the execution you liked, or was it the fact that it was delivered on time? If leaders aren’t specific regarding what they like and don’t like, the chances of the same behaviour being repeated reduce.

🔹 Measurable. What tangible impact did it have? How did it make your life easier / harder? What result did it produce? In short, why did you like it or dislike it so much? Again, if the person receiving the feedback understands the impact that their behaviour had, they are more likely to repeat it (for good behaviour) or less likely to repeat it (for improved behaviour).

🔹 Attainable. Could the goal actually be achieved? This is incredibly important for constructive feedback – if the result wasn’t achieved – could it actually be achieved. There is nothing worse that providing constructive feedback to someone only to find that the chances or success were low to begin with due to time, resources, team etc.

🔹 Relevant. Make sure the feedback matches the behaviour ie. don’t raise irrelevant behaviour or ‘tack on’ something else while you have the chance. This is often done both with positive as well as constructive feedback. A chance was missed previously to mention something good to your team member, so why not tack it on here as well? Unless you are mentioning it to reinforce your positive point, it will fall flat. It is even less effective with negative / constructive feedback. The predominant question in the mind of the receiver is ‘why didn’t you tell me that before?’

🔹 Time-Based. Providing feedback on behaviour a week ago is wasted time and effort. Provide it swiftly, and provide it SMART.

Is your feedback SMART?

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