By Kevin Eikenberry, co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute.

Even if your employees work from locations across the globe, you must provide regular, consistent feedback about their performance, behavior and attitude. In fact, it’s the most important thing you can do, so it’s a skill you should continue to develop. Here are some great resources to help you do just that:

The Truth About Giving Performance Feedback to Remote Employees
Remote Goal Setting and Accountability
8 Keys to Ensuring Successful Employee Evaluations
Do You Conduct an Annual Review Remotely?

However, before you dive in, I want to point out one very important aspect of providing effective feedback; one that, in my humble opinion, is often forgotten.

In a way, this key unlocks the door, clears the obstacles and allows employees to better understand, accept and put to use your feedback. Without this key, your feedback is unlikely to have maximum impact.

So what is it? Start any feedback conversation by asking employees what they think about their performance. That creates a dialogue, rather than you simply sharing your feedback in a one-way discussion. For example:

  • “So, how did you think it went?”
  • “What did you notice about your performance?”
  • “What did you think went well?”
  • “What would you wish you had done differently?”
  • “What pleased you?”
  • “What disappointed you?”
  • “What might you change next time?”

Why is this an effective approach? Here’s why:

It engages the performer

Especially if the situation is a formal performance review, people are likely anxious or stressed. They are mentally bracing themselves for your input, not knowing exactly what it will be. By asking them to share their thoughts first, you take some of the pressure out of the situation, immediately engage them and encourage them to participate. Besides, they have insight into how they performed, so it makes sense to ask them to weigh in.

It creates accountability in the development process

By involving them, you offer them ownership of the performance conversation. It isn’t just something you are “doing” to them or something that is happening to them. That makes the experience more meaningful, and the information shared will be more likely to stick.

It increases accountability for future performance

Any feedback situation is meant to improve (or at least maintain) future performance. When people are engaged in the conversation, you increase the likelihood that they will be accountable for making necessary changes. Why? Because, at least in part, they own the feedback and their behaviors.

It allows you to see their performance through their eyes

They know how they’ve performed. They know all the positive actions and steps they’ve taken, many of which you may have missed. They also know about obstacles preventing them from doing their best work, again, issues of which you may be unaware. Asking their input ensures that you have a more complete conversation about their performance.

It helps you put feedback in perspective for the performer

If you have a disagreement about their performance on a specific area or situation, knowing their perspective will allow you to provide feedback in a way they are more likely to accept.

The next time you need to offer feedback – whether largely positive or negative – start by asking what your employees think. That will unlock the door to a more productive and effective conversation and likely lead to what you truly want: higher performance in the future.

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