I’ll be Watching You…

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Evaluation and feedback can make or break working relationships. Terry Russell, partner of Intouch Management Consulting LLP, offers some tips on how to make sure the process is productive.

Evaluation and feedback are two simple words that can function either as an effective development tool or as a process that can do more harm than good, depending on how it is applied.

What seems like a fairly straightforward process can often be extremely tricky, especially when dealing with colleagues with whom you wish to maintain a good working relationship.

Self-Discovery
Firstly, it is important to move away from its image as a negative process used to highlight weaknesses.

This can be done by using a model of self-discovery where the evaluator uses questioning to deliver feedback, and to encourage the person who is being evaluated to become more self-aware of the areas that need improvement. This then turns evaluation and feedback into an effective self-development tool.

It is very common for people in businesses to feel nervous about evaluating, observing and giving feedback as well as being observed themselves.

Many people believe that you must be an expert in the subject area to give feedback, but this is not the case. As long as you follow some basic principles, you can use evaluation and feedback as a powerful means to share best practice.

Two-Way Process
A good evaluation and feedback session starts with contracting, where both the evaluator and the evaluated are aware of each other’s expectations before the process begins.

Likewise, both parties must understand that evaluation and feedback is a two-way process in which the evaluator must be open and honest and without preconceived ideas; the evaluated must take on board the feedback and use it constructively.

At the end of the day, evaluation and feedback is not something to feel threatened by, but is important to learn how to deliver it constructively while taking into consideration the feelings of others.

It is essential to be aware of the key dos and don’ts.

Without the right approach, evaluation and feedback can be quite a destructive process.

It could damage the relationship between colleagues or, even worse, damage someone’s confidence.

Tips for Evaluating/Observing
1. Discuss what will be observed and the benefits of the evaluation and “contract” accordingly.
2. Agree when and how feedback will take place and stick to it.
3. Divide your notes page vertically in two – one half for deliverer's activity/comments, the other for the recipient's responses.
4. Try to arrange seating so that you can see and hear both the deliverer and the recipient without distracting them.
5. Record evidence in chronological order down the column – note the time at intervals.
6. Record key quotes from the deliverer.
7. Look and listen at style as well as content of communication.
8. Make notes on observable behaviours e.g. non-verbal communication.
9. Record the results of the behaviour – the effects on the recipient, how they responded.
10. Only evaluate after you have finished the observation and reviewed all your evidence – consider the context of the situation and use your judgement.

Tips for Giving Feedback
1. Feedback should be given as soon as practically possible after the event.
2. Ask if it is okay to give feedback.
3. Always, always consider the needs of the individual receiving the feedback.
4. Do not be judgmental e.g. “I would not have done it that way” or “If I were you”.
5. Make the feedback specific, use your notes, give examples, and use quotes.
6. Focus on only one or two key areas for development.
7. Balance your feedback e.g. if 80% of the behaviours are good spend 80% of your feedback time on them.
8. Always end on a positive note.
9. Always set timescale and date for follow-up/review/next step.
10. Feedback is a two-way process – if you give it, you must be able to receive it.

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