‘What Can I Tell My Manager to Improve On?’ Constructive Feedback: Suggestions for Managerial Enhancement
Giving constructive feedback to your manager can be a challenging but rewarding experience. It can help you build a better relationship with your boss, improve your own performance, and contribute to the success of your team and organization. However, it can also be risky if you don’t approach it with care and respect. In this article, I will share some tips about what to offer feedback on and how to do it effectively.
- Offering feedback well to a superior has the potential to both improve performance and demonstrate leadership skills
- Be selective in choosing what feedback to offer with an eye for impact
- Think about your approach and messaging ahead of time to optimize delivery
- Be respectful with a desire to help for impact and effectiveness
You will find more discussion on each of these topics in the companion blogs entitled, How Do You Say ‘I Will Improve My Performance’? Articulating Commitment: Phrases to Promise Enhanced Performance, and ‘How do I Get Higher Performance From my Organization?’ – A Comprehensive Guide.
Suggestions for Managerial Enhancement
It is often the case that we are blind to the truth about our own performance, both our strengths and our shortcomings. Unless we are made aware of these truths and the impact they have on the organization, change is unlikely. It is also true that those around us are often well aware of these truths and are likely tolerating the shortcomings and taking for granted the strengths. Either way, these truths remain hidden unless shared. This is where feedback is necessary to realize the changes needed to take personal and organizational performance to the next level.
Similarly, there are likely truths about your manager that you are tolerating and/or taking for granted. You may not see it as your place to offer unsolicited feedback to a superior. And yet, you have the power to influence change right from where you are. In fact, true leadership is independent of power, position, or authority. By demonstrating the ability to offer feedback well, you will also be demonstrating vision, courage, trustworthiness, integrity, and systems-thinking, all traits of effective leaders. Therefore, offering feedback to your manager is both an opportunity to improve the performance of your team as well as an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership capabilities.
What to Offer Feedback About
Indeed, there are many benefits to offering helpful feedback to your manager including strengthening your relationship with your manager, improving your team’s performance, and enhancing your own skills and career. However, it is important to choose the right topics around which to deliver feedback.
Here are some possible topics for constructive feedback to your manager, along with some suggestions on how to approach them:
- Communication: How well does the manager communicate the goals, expectations, and feedback to the team? Are they clear, consistent, and respectful? Do they listen to the team’s input and concerns? How can they improve their communication skills and style?
- Leadership: How effectively does the manager lead the team and inspire them to perform well? Do they delegate tasks appropriately and empower the team members to take ownership and initiative? Do they provide guidance, support, and recognition? How can they enhance their leadership qualities and behaviors?
- Collaboration: How well does the manager foster a collaborative and inclusive culture within the team and across the organization? Do they encourage teamwork, cooperation, and diversity? Do they resolve conflicts and handle disagreements constructively? How can they promote a more collaborative environment and mindset?
- Innovation: How open is the manager to new ideas, perspectives, and approaches? Do they encourage creativity, experimentation, and learning from failures? Do they embrace change and adapt to changing situations? How can they stimulate more innovation and growth within the team and the organization?
- Development: How invested is the manager in the professional and personal development of the team members? Do they provide opportunities for learning, growth, and career advancement? Do they offer constructive feedback, coaching, and mentoring? How can they support the team’s development needs and aspirations more effectively?
These are some of the topics that you can consider when giving constructive feedback to your manager. Focus on the vital few, not the trivial many. Prioritize the opportunities for improvement based on their potential impact on the team and alignment with organizational culture.
How to Offer Constructive Feedback
Of course, the topics chosen for feedback are only as good as the delivery. Care needs to be taken in how the feedback is conveyed so that it is well received and acted upon. Considerations such as timing and tone should be contemplated in advance.
Here are additional considerations to aid you in delivering feedback well:
- Affirm the positives over time
Feedback is best received from those we trust as allies. This trust is earned over time. Get in the practice of affirming the strengths and positive behaviors and performance displayed by your manager in a genuine manner. Ideally, when it comes time to deliver corrective feedback, you will have earned their trust already. In doing so, you will have laid the groundwork for your corrective feedback to be received well, even if your delivery is less than polished.
- Check the motives of your heart
Corrective feedback delivered out of anger or to manipulate someone is unlikely to be received well or to lead to improvement. On the other hand, feedback delivered with a genuine desire to help someone improve is an important component for a successful delivery. So check your heart. If you desire to exert control over the person or to make them feel bad, find another time to deliver the feedback when you are in a different mindset. If you have a heart of compassion and service, you are ready.
- Ask for permission
Rather than catching your manager off-guard, and to ensure they are willing to hear what you have to share, ask if it is okay to share some feedback. You may do this as a precurser to setting up a time to talk in a suitable setting where you will have their full attention. Or you may do it in the context of another conversation provided the conditions are good.
- Be specific and objective
Avoid vague or general statements that can be interpreted in different ways. Instead, use concrete examples and data to illustrate your points. For example, instead of saying “You need to communicate better”, you could say “I noticed that you didn’t reply to my email about the project deadline last week, which made me unsure about what to do next.”
- Focus on the behavior, not the person
Don’t attack your manager’s character or personality, but rather describe the actions or behaviors that you think they can improve on and the impact it has. For example, instead of saying “You are always late”, you could say “When you arrive late to meetings, it disrupts the agenda and makes us lose valuable time.”
- Suggest solutions, not problems
Don’t just point out what your manager is doing wrong, but also offer some suggestions on how they can do better. This will show that you are not just complaining, but also willing to help and support them. For example, you could say “I think it would be helpful if you could set up regular check-ins with us to discuss our progress and challenges. This way, we can get more guidance and feedback from you and also share our ideas and opinions.”
- Be respectful and polite
Remember that giving feedback to your manager is not an opportunity to vent or blame, but a way to improve your working relationship and performance. Therefore, be respectful and polite in your tone and language. Avoid using harsh or emotional words that can trigger defensiveness or anger. Instead, use words that express appreciation, understanding, and cooperation. For example, instead of saying “You should”, you could say “I suggest” or “I recommend”.
To sum up, giving constructive feedback to your manager can be a valuable skill that can benefit both of you in the long run. However, it requires careful planning, preparation, and delivery to avoid any negative consequences. By following these tips, you can deliver that feedback in a clear, respectful, and effective way.
Passionate about growing amazing leaders who create great places to work and lead fulfilling lives, Angela enables transformational change in individuals, teams, and businesses. As a Certified Professional Coach, she is skilled at combining sound coaching skills with proven leadership methodologies to cultivate growth and ultimately, results.