When we were little, although we didn’t realise it, we utilised feedback as a mechanism to learn, adapt and grow. We tried, tested and practiced everything until we had either found out about it, mastered it, got enough of it or decided it wasn’t important enough to keep going. Feedback came in many different forms from physical or emotional pain, from success and triumph, from praise, rules and boundaries given by the grown ups (or the other kids) in our lives, from the excitement of mastering a new skill and from failure.
As grown ups, we desire feedback just as much as we did as a child. Feedback is still available to us in the same way it was when we were a child through all of our senses except now, in my experience, we rarely recognise feedback as anything other than a purely verbal occurrence which is often not sought, not welcome when received and not often given well if at all.
However, we are wired to seek out feedback whether we are conscious of it or not.
Why do we need to give feedback in the workplace?
Feedback in business provides valuable information that enables decisions and choices to be made. Top performing businesses stay on top because they constantly seek ways to improve and build on the success they have. They ask for it and they act upon it. Similarly, top athletes and high performing business individuals constantly reflect and review their own performance, seek feedback from others and look to implement those elements that will enable them to become even more effective and successful.
Why would you want to give feedback …….. and why would you want to receive it in the workplace?
It’s not just top performing businesses. Think about yourself for a moment and reflect on your career. Have you ever wondered but never been told …….
- What your boss truly thought about your everyday performance?
- How you were viewed in the business?
- Why someone else got the job you wanted?
- How you performed on a specific project or piece of work?
When you were wondering, how did you feel? What were you thinking? What stories did you tell yourself about your performance? Did you ask?
Whether we admit it or not, we all need regular feedback on goals, direction & performance in fact 65% of employees say they want more feedback . Specifically the type of feedback desired is the type that will develop skills and stretch, grow and aid personal development.
Many managers and leaders feel uncomfortable giving feedback and often lack the necessary skills to do so but without feedback people are in the dark; they have no idea how they stand with their line manager, their peers, or how they are performing in terms of what is expected of them.
Without feedback from a leader, team members will tend to gauge their success or performance against their own measure of success. This makes performance management difficult, difficult conversations even more challenging and any performance issues will only get worse as time passes and they go unaddressed. Equally, unrecognised success can overtime lead to demotivation and disengagement and an inability to maintain successful performance.
There is an art to giving and receiving quality feedback, feedback that will genuinely help. It’s a learnable skill, crucial to leading and managing well and a part of communicating effectively, enabling leaders and employees to stretch, grow and fulfil their potential and for businesses to achieve and exceed their results. And yet managers and leaders are often not taught how to give feedback and so avoid it fearing the consequences.
Setting your intent for giving quality feedback
It’s often said that feedback is a gift !!
Sometimes we get exactly the gift we want, sometimes it’s unwelcome and sometimes we wish we could give it back.
So how do we give feedback well?
For me its starts with identifying the purpose for giving feedback. The intent.
One of the pre suppositions of NLP ( Neuro Linguistic Programming) is ” there is no failure only feedback”
Holding this belief to be true, in my view, helps to promote a culture of continuous improvement and curiosity, a growth mindset where living and role modelling feedback as just the way things are done helps to create a culture of open, honest communication and growth focussed performance . It takes away some of the fear associated with giving perceived “negative feedback” as everyone receives feedback regardless of whether the starting point is under performance, average performance or excellent performance.
In a continuous improvement culture you reflect and review everything. You get into the habit of reviewing success and failure or more simply results and performance. Feedback becomes a part of how you do things. You don’t have to take time for it, you don’t have to prepare yourself for it, you just do it. So people will come to expect it and will readily start to give feedback to each other and you too.
Feedback becomes then a key part of a set of many people systems and processes, routines and rituals that happen every day and make people more aware of what they are doing and the effect that it is having. When the focus is about continuous improvement, feedback becomes about driving, stretching and growing the individual, team and business, being curious about why something was effective or not effective, worked or didn’t work. And of course as a line manager role modelling this behaviour by asking for feedback on your own performance and impact and acting on it.
Tips for giving feedback
Feedback needs to be clear, concise, timely and purposeful in order to be useful so,
- Practice the art of Self Reflection – this is self feedback – Ask “what did i do well and what could I have done more effectively?” Get into the habit of reflecting objectively at every opportunity. Notice how you feel and what you were thinking, what you did or didn’t do at a behavioural level and how those behaviours impacted on others and your results. Get curious about your motivations and actions.
- Stay objective – stick to the facts and don’t let your personal feelings or emotions drive the conversation. Back up your facts where possible with specific examples.
- Be Specific – Avoid making generalised evaluations and using vague statements. That was a “great job” whilst nice to hear doesn’t actually help anyone to learn about the specifics of what was effective behaviour and how to continue to deliver great results. Give actionable advice if it’s more developmental feedback.
- Tackle the behaviour not the person – focus on the wanted or unwanted behaviour and the impact it had and what you would like to see instead.
- Learn to view all feedback as both constructive and developmental – this will help deliver positive and negative feedback in a more balanced, consistent and positively framed way.
- Take account of your own impact – be mindful of how you are delivering the feedback and the environment you are in.
- Ask questions and listen – where possible, make feedback a two way conversation. Involving the other person in their own feedback will help build relationships and trust as well as checking performance expectations, motivators and understanding .
- Be timely – don’t wait. Give feedback as close to the event as possible to have the most impact.
Tips for receiving feedback
- Listen – someone has taken the time to offer feedback (and may have had to pluck up courage to do so ) so listen with an open mind to what is being said.
- Ask questions – seek to understand rather than to challenge or justify.
- Remain open-minded and not defensive – take time after to reflect on what had been said and balance it with your own self reflections.
- Focus on future development – be curious as to how this feedback can help you and your future development. Be prepared to clarify or seek out more feedback from other sources if you are unclear .
- Say Thankyou – whether you agree with the feedback or not thank the person who has taken the time to share their feedback with you. It’s probably taken courage to do so and is likely information that you may not have had previously.
- Decide – you always have a choice about whether you take feedback on board or not. Consider and reflect on what you have heard. If you are hearing the same feedback from more than one source it’s probably worth paying attention to and considering how to implement it. However, trying to change and adapt your behaviour to multiple or conflicting sets of feedback is not healthy. So reflect, weigh up the feedback that will help you become even more effective, take advice if necessary then decide.