Giving clear, actionable feedback is arguably the most essential management skill. Many of us have been encouraged to use the "praise sandwich" when giving feedback. Say something nice, then some criticism, then finish off with something positive.
The reasoning is that you need to sugar the criticism pill with some praise or the person receiving your feedback will be feel devalued and discouraged. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well, and can actually be counterproductive. It can make the person giving the feedback seem insincere and it can confuse the person getting the feedback.
It's also been shown that people tend to remember the most recent point most clearly. So your feedback recipient may only really register the last, positive point, and discount the critical information you gave.
A different, more positive and effective approach is E2C2. We cover this on our Courageous Conversations course.
This approach assumes that your feedback-ee is robust enough to listen to some criticism, and wants to know where they are going wrong (or right). It helps you clearly deliver the most important messages.
How to give feedback using E2C2
Start the feedback conversation with the two E's:
E = Evidence
E = Effect
For example: Evidence - "Your last two reports had several factual errors. This one on page 3 and another on page 8."
Effect - "The effect this has on our department, is that it undermines our credibility and it means that we have to spend time reproducing the report and issuing corrections."
An important point is to start the conversation with the "E" presented as facts. Don't beat around the bush or get sidetracked into a conversation about the reasons why etc. It's important to get your view across clearly, and factually. You're not attacking the person, you're just stating the facts about one aspect of that person's work. Don't make a huge big deal out of it.
Continue the conversation with what you would like to see change and/or continue:
C = Change
C = Continue
Change - "It would be great if your next report could be error free."
Continue - "You're a good writer and people really value your reports. It's great that you always get them out on time. Let's figure out a way you can keep delivering that timeliness without compromising accuracy."