Tune-in to Feedback

The right approach can boost job performance.

As a pastor, church secretary, or office administrator, it is good to develop the skills to provide adequate feedback to staff, volunteers, and church members. Within a work situation, feedback clarifies how well someone is performing a job or role. Feedback can be either verbal or written. It can be provided through formal channels, like an annual review or scheduled performance appraisals, or it can be given informally at any time.

Effective feedback not only reduces your own work and stress, it also benefits those you work with. Educating others about policies and work standards saves you valuable time because it keeps you from having to correct mistakes or redo things that were done incorrectly.

Gene was constantly late with materials for the monthly newsletter. Since he delivered them after office hours, Judy, the church secretary, never had a chance to tell him about the proper deadline. His article always appeared in the newsletter, though, so Gene assumed everything was all right. Judy solved the problem by calling Gene one day to explain the proper deadline date.

Here are a few ways feedback helps workers and the organization:

  • Feedback enables workers to gauge their performance compared to expectations or standards.
  • Feedback helps workers become aware of blind spots that detract from their effectiveness.
  • Positive feedback affirms and motivates a worker by pointing out areas where they are doing well.
  • Feedback with specific steps for improvement helps workers perform better.

Giving constructive feedback can be difficult. You may have a fear of being rejected or misunderstood. In spite of these possibilities, do not neglect providing constructive feedback. Most people want to know how they are doing. Not giving feedback may suggest to someone that what they’re doing is not important or that everything is okay.

The key is to provide feedback in a way that builds and edifies rather than tears down and destroys. Here are some tips to help you accomplish that goal:

Check your attitude. Do not correct people when you are angry or upset. They will pick up the emotions and respond defensively. Never use feedback as a way to assert your superiority or to get back at someone you dislike.

Watch your timing. Choosing the right time to provide feedback requires a judgment call. It’s possible for your feedback to have a negative impact on someone following a difficult event or a glaring error. If the person is upset, they won’t be attentive to what you say.

Ask permission. By asking permission to provide feedback you’re letting the other person determine whether they are ready, willing, and able to receive it. Simply ask, “Are you open to some feedback on this?” If permission is denied, look for a later time when you can talk about the matter.

Establish common ground. Create a sense that this is a win-win issue and that the other person will benefit from this exchange.

Diane, I notice how you act professional in all you do. May I share something that may help you become more effective when answering the phone?

In most situations, it’s a good practice to affirm the other person by including positive statements. Affirmation not only encourages the other person, but can add weight to your comments.

Be specific. Do not make your feedback too general or vague. Tie into a specific incident to illustrate the problem or concern. Don’t say things like “you are too careless” or “you need to learn to work faster.” This can be taken as an attack on a person’s character. This kind of feedback does not tell the person what specific behaviors need changing and why. Focus more on what to do rather than what not to do.

Good feedback not only informs but also instructs. Don’t just point out what needs to be done differently, but offer ideas and suggestions on how to improve. Ask if there is any way you can help.

Do not carry on too long or belabor your point. Communicate your concern and belief that the other person can and will perform better. Turn your comments into a positive challenge for the future.

James F. Cobble, Jr., received his master of divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary, and also has doctoral degrees from both Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Illinois.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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