How to Give Constructive Feedback Over Video Calls
As a leader, it’s imperative to give constructive feedback to your employees in order to solidify a strong foundation for business success. But what’s the best way to do this through a video call? Follow the tips below.
While many of us have taken the necessary steps to adjust to the new day-to-day, some difficulties may remain – particularly for those among us who are still working from home. Communicating effectively with your coworkers and employees can be a serious challenge under normal circumstances, and unfortunately, we are still far from normal circumstances.
Adaptability is a key skill for any business aiming to thrive during this crisis. And overcoming the challenge of communication is an important first step towards acting more cohesively and avoiding the pitfalls of remote work. This includes increased burnout and miscommunication.
This is true for management and workers alike, as every member of an organization must learn to communicate effectively with their teammates and coworkers to ask the right questions and give the right answers. Miscommunication remains a big issue as many of us continue to rely on technologies that we might not be completely familiar with.
But when conversations are particularly sensitive, clarity is of the utmost importance. When aiming to provide feedback to an employee or ask for feedback from an employer, there can be no room for uncertainty or miscommunication.
Here’s how you can improve on your feedback, and make sure it comes across as intended.
Make Sure Your Tech is Working
The fundamentals are important. You can’t have an earnest conversation with someone when there are ten walls between you two in the form of terrible mic quality, audio lag, video stutters, or far more egregious issues such as a muted mic or broken camera.
An important video call isn’t something you should start with a troubleshooting session.
Always do a test call beforehand, calling a friend or family member to make sure that everything is going smoothly and that there are no major issues on your end. Check the video feed, check your internet connection, and check your mic quality. Test the delay between saying something and it being heard by the other party.
At this point, you should have a decent quality microphone, especially if video calls are a frequent business matter. Be sure that your words are coming across clearly and without any stutter, echo, or significant distortion.
Establish Etiquette for Video Calls
Just as there should be a basic standard for the quality of your equipment, there should be a basic standard for video calling etiquette. It’s all fine and good to enjoy some of the perks of remote work, such as the ability to work from home in your PJs.
But when we let all pretenses of professionalism break down completely, it can become difficult to distinguish between work and personal life, let alone friend and employee.
Putting a little effort into your presentation on camera (and asking the same of anyone working with you or for you) also shows that you care. Next, it also helps you avoid camera issues that might come across as unprofessional, intimidating, or embarrassing, including poor posture, angle, and lighting.
Sit up straight, face the camera head-on, speak clearly, and hopefully find a corner of the home where you can be alone without any significant background disturbances.
Figure Out Your Core Message
Before scheduling the call, it helps to sit down and figure out exactly what it is you want to address. Boil things down into simple sentences and keep them on-hand for whenever you feel that the conversation is trailing off.
You can even go so far as to write up a script for how you’d like the conversation to go. However, even if you plan on just having an organic face-to-face, it’s important to keep your agenda in mind (and on hand).
Make Your Intentions Clear and Schedule the Call
One of the important keys to providing constructive feedback is honesty, and by extension, trust. To that end, this isn’t something you should spring on someone. If you’re planning to schedule a call to provide feedback over a recent project or someone’s performance over the past few months, make it clear upfront that this is what you intend to do.
It doesn’t have to be threatening or intimidating. Managers often feel that they’re harsher with their employees than they really are, and they fail to realize that employees typically welcome constructive criticism more than praise. That isn’t to say that recognition is overrated – but criticism is more helpful, especially when it provides information that helps employees do better.
Give Honest Feedback
One of the worst things you can do when offering constructive feedback is coating it in praise and positivity. This so called “compliment sandwich” ends up muddling the message by taking away from the key point (helping an employee improve) by confusing them with talk about how they’ve been doing so great.
Separate recognition and criticism. There’s a time for praise, and a time for reflection and re-evaluation.
Hear Them Out as Well
Constructive criticism is much more effective when you have a better handle on your employee’s situation and turn the call into a two-way exchange. A manager’s job isn’t to squeeze blood from a stone, but to help individuals thrive at work, so the whole organization can thrive together.
That means listening to your employees, and maybe getting a better feel for how current circumstances have been affecting them and their performance, and how you might be able to help them perform better at work.
If they’ve been struggling with the latest project because of a personal problem (such as a sick spouse), you could offer to give them some time off for a few days so they can focus their energies on taking care of things at home, so they can come back ready to rededicate their attention to work. Criticism isn’t just about telling someone that they’ve been slacking (they likely already know that) – it’s about finding ways together to improve their performance.
Follow-Up is Critical
It’s an easy mistake to make, but never assume that criticism or feedback ends with a simple one-and-done video call.
End the first call by scheduling another in a few days’ time, and expect to check in on your employee at least a few times over the next few weeks to monitor their progress and make sure that your message has come across – while giving them ample opportunity to communicate with you and let you know what they might need to do better for the company.
By scheduling a follow-up immediately, you let them know that this is an ongoing process that you’re willing to dedicate time to, and that your professional relationship (and their career) is something you find important enough to invest in, rather than just giving them a simple warning (before eventually letting them go).