Communicating with Your Team: Five Feedback Techniques for Managers

As a manager, effective communication is essential for providing feedback to your team. Not only does clear and effective communication help you provide guidance and direction to your employees, but it has been proven to be one of the biggest areas of focus that can support or hinder retention of staff, satisfaction and productive work environments. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore five different communication techniques that you as a manager can use to provide feedback to your team. From constructive criticism to open dialogue or performance reviews, these strategies can help you ensure that your team understands your expectations without offence or feedback being taken personally. Read on to find out more about these effective feedback techniques.

The Appreciative Enquiry

Providing feedback to your team is a vital part of being a successful manager. It’s important to not only give constructive criticism but also be able to recognise the strengths of each team member and the team as a whole. One way to do this is through the Appreciative Inquiry method.

The AI technique has four main steps: Discovery, Dream, Design and Delivery

In the Discovery stage, you talk to each team member about what has gone well in the past and what could go better in the future. 

During the Dream stage, team members come up with ideas for how things can be improved. 

The Design stage is where you decide on a plan of action, including strategies for implementation and evaluation. 

Finally, in the Delivery stage, you put the plan into action. 

By using the Appreciative Inquiry technique, you create an atmosphere of trust and respect while helping your team reach their goals. It’s a great way to provide feedback that’s framed in a positive way that still recognises the individual strengths of each team member.

The Sandwich technique

As a manager, providing feedback to your team is an essential part of helping them grow and develop. However, it can be difficult to know what methods are best for communicating your thoughts and opinions effectively and respectfully, especially when you need to provide feedback that isn’t overly positive. 

One such technique that you can use is the Sandwich Technique. This uses an approach that starts with a positive piece of feedback, followed by an area that needs improvement, followed by another positive observation. 

This may sound like — “I know you’ve been working hard on this project, and I appreciate all the effort you’ve put in. To get the best results for the project, I think it would be beneficial if you broke down the tasks into smaller action lists with small deadlines and milestones along the way to avoid not finishing on time. You’re so great at organising our files and putting task lists together in a logical way, and I’m sure making this switch will help even further.”

The What, So What, Now What technique

One technique that can be used to give feedback is the What, So What, Now What method. This technique encourages active listening and helps your team members understand the impact of their actions.

When using this method, begin by asking the team members what they did or what happened. 

This allows the team member to explain their actions in their own words. Afterwards, explain why their actions are important by discussing the consequences of those actions, both positive and negative. 

Finally, guide how to move forward in the future, either through repeating successful actions or improving on areas of weakness.

The Stop, Start, Continue Technique

This technique can be used in a variety of situations, such as during one-on-one meetings, group meetings, or even in an email or text message.

To use this approach, in a conversation highlight one thing you hope for the person to stop doing, one thing to start, and one thing to continue. This can be used for project outlines, feedback and self-reflection. 

Note: When using this technique, we recommend you use it as a self-reflection exercise to begin with — begin by asking the person what they wish to start, stop and continue in relation to a topic. 

For example, you might ask a team member what they want to stop, start and continue with punctuality and presence at work. They may reflect and respond by suggesting they stop checking their phone unless it’s an emergency or at lunch, start arriving to work 15 minutes earlier to settle in and cater for traffic or delays, and continue working in sprints throughout the day with mini breaks to feel refreshed and not overwhelmed. 

By taking the time to clearly define the areas where an employee needs to improve or change their behaviour while acknowledging what they’re already doing well, can help a team member positively grow and improve in a way that feels empowering.

The SBI Technique

As a manager, providing effective feedback to your team is an essential skill. One of the most powerful tools available to you is the Situation-Behaviour-Impact (SBI) Technique. 

This technique can help you structure your feedback in a way that is clear and actionable.

1. SITUATION: Start by clearly stating the situation that triggered the feedback. 

2. BEHAVIOUR: Outline the behaviour that occurred in response to the situation. 

3. IMPACT: End with a description of the impact the behaviour had on others. 

In action, this may sound something like this — “Yesterday I noticed the conversation you were having with Sam was elevated and in frustration, you swore at her. The impact of this was Sam was really upset.”

When using this technique, it’s important to be specific, objective, and honest. It’s also important to focus on the actionable item, rather than the individual. 

For example, instead of saying “You should have done this”, you could say — “We should have done this”. This prevents an implication of blame and shifts to shared responsibility and accountability. 

Using the SBI Technique can help make sure your feedback is clear, constructive, and actionable. It can also help you create an environment where people are comfortable giving and receiving feedback.

Does having tough conversations and providing feedback as a manager instantly make you sweat under the collar? The Management Essentials digital program is an immersive six-week program you can do at your own pace, which is specifically designed for managers to uncover confident, competent and compassionate leaders. Learn more about the program here