3 Tips for Giving Productive Feedback as a Mentor
Vol. 17 No. 2
Most administrators at a private-independent school take on the role of mentor at one point or another. Whether that’s working with members of the faculty or staff, helping a new hire come up to speed, or managing a department, providing effective and useful feedback can greatly impact your school culture.
When you’re able to clearly offer strong one-on-one leadership, everyone is able to work more effectively in service to your school’s mission. The mission should be at the center of all the feedback you give as a mentor, ensuring you and your mentees are moving toward the same goal.
Well-delivered feedback is given in response to behavior. Through this process, your mentee:
- feels confident in knowing where he or she stands;
- understands that you believe in and count on him or her, regardless of any corrective feedback you give; and
- recognize his or her level of excellence, as well as what needs improvement. Positive feedback can indeed be as important as correcting any “negative” behavior, or behavior that doesn’t align with the school’s mission.
We’ve collected a few tips for extending effective feedback as a mentor. Consider the following.
- Speak directly and with conviction. If you’re giving negative feedback, resist the impulse to speak in the third person (“I was speaking with our School Head and we thought that …”). Don’t apologize. Avoid clichés, slang, exaggerations, and euphemisms. This can certainly be difficult! You may be tempted to share negative and positive feedback at the same time. But this can send mixed messages and reduce the impact of both. If you’re sharing negative feedback, reduce confusion by stating what the issue is and why the behavior was not mission-appropriate. Save positive feedback for another time when it can be celebrated on its own.
- Be respectful, timely, objective, and brief. You should give feedback as soon as possible after a situation occurs. Begin the conversation by asking if you may provide your insight. Be factual about the behavior—in most cases, this includes the who, what, when, and where of a situation. Avoid including hearsay or gossip and do not characterize the person (such as saying,” I know you have been distracted by family matters lately”). Let the person share that during the conversation if he or she prefers. Also, be mindful of nonverbal communication, such as your body language and tone of voice. Finally, conclude with how the behavior impacted you and why.
- Welcome feedback. Continue to solicit feedback about your mentorship, both from your mentees and your peers. Ask what has been effective, if you’ve been unclear, and what you could do to improve your performance. Reflect on what they’ve shared to continue to grow as a mentor.
Supporting a productive school culture is an integral part of most administrators’ duties. Refine your mentoring approach to achieve this goal and further your school’s mission.
Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 15 No. 1 Setting Up an Effective Mentor Program
The Source for School Heads Vol. 12 No. 4 How to Be More Than a Leader—Be a Mentor
The Source for Business and OperationsVol. 9 No. 9 Are You a Reluctant (or Unwilling) Mentor?
Additional ISM resources for Gold members:
I&P Vol. 31 No. 15 Is 360-Degree Feedback Useful in Private-Independent Schools?