… isn’t really an art, but common sense. This verse from the bible explains it all — “do unto others as you would want other do unto you.” That’s it!
Sadly, we don’t come near to following that advice. Far from it. Feedback, should almost always be personal. If someone screws up, pull them aside and just be honest. Instead of focusing on your thoughts, encourage them to express themselves. Your agenda should be to listen deeply without any bias or judgement.
Chances are, this person is already quite embarrassed about the blooper but never had the courage to stand up and own it. You help them own it, learn from the experience and help them take the learnings forward.
When it’s not possible to meet in person, convey the feedback in writing. Don’t delay it. Ensure that the tone of your message if a little light, and if possible a funny one! Yeah, you heard that right. A note that’s on the lighter side of things but still highlights what went wrong and what could’ve been done to avoid it. Your objective should be this: in an unlikely event of this message getting forwarded to someone else, that person should get a good laugh (or should be entertained at least)!
Make it enjoyable. I know it’s an unconventional advice. Some may say its unprofessional, but it’s so much human. A year or five or a decade down the lane you would laugh at it anyway. And should would the person whom you’re sharing this feedback. Why not make it funny now? It’s a skill and just like any others, the more you do it the better you will get.
Keep in eye on the volume of information your share. When you’re face-to-face, don’t give them a laundry list of items, but one or two specific recommendations that they can action upon immediately. I personally prefer two: one that’s focused on the long-term and another that can be actioned on immediately. If you have more, use email to share the rest as “add-on” points. Make sure that the list is not more than 3 to 5 specific recommendations with actionable steps.
Finally, try and avoid escalations. It’s your chance to build a relationship and earn this person’s trust. Copying an email to the rest of the world is honestly stupid and downright humiliating. It surely wouldn’t help improve performance or the person’s self-confidence anyway. Think hard before you include a third (or the hundredth) person.
That’s all! As with all things, keep it simple. Keep it human. And remember, leave them a happier and stronger person than you found them.