Giving feedback is an important part of being a leader in an organization. In order to succeed in any system that involves interacting with people, we must become masterful in the art and science of feedback. In this blog post, I bust 5 major myths that I have observed in our organizations that shortchange the organization on the benefits of timely and effective feedback. Let us begin.
Well, this is one of the most common misconceptions. The idea that giving feedback is only accomplished during a pre-scheduled time – usually during some formalized review.
The problem with this thinking is that, very often, the behaviours that need change, as well as those that need to be reinforced, are ignored for so long that it becomes difficult to produce any meaningful results related to those behaviours. In addition, the company has lost all the potential productivity that could have accrued had the feedback been given earlier.
The truth is that feedback is happening all the time and leaders in organizations will benefit from giving both informal as well as formal feedback.
Waiting weeks or months to deliver feedback is costing all parties in the form of potential productivity from improved performance that effective feedback can produce.
As a leader, consider having short, routine feedback meetings with your team (one-on-one or as a group). This will keep you in the loop of goings-on. I suggest not calling them feedback meetings as this can set people on edge. Keep it informal and put your team at ease as best you can. Assure them you are interested in their growth and success and you will find them more forthcoming (see myth #5).
Feedback is a dialogue between two people or a group discussion where more people are involved. Many leaders feel that feedback conversations should consist of them doing the talking while the recipient does the listening.
The problem with this thinking is that the leader is missing out on valuable insights from the other person as to reasons or motivations for actions. These insights could not only help that particular employee, but could shed a lot of light on some of the deficiencies that exist at an institutional level. By uncovering and addressing these, performance can be improved on a larger scale. And all this by simply letting the other person talk too. Radical thought, right?
Feedback discussions should be just that – discussions.
Next time you give feedback, ask for feedback, ask for motivations and reasons for both positive and undesirable behaviours. Especially, try to make the other person feel at ease to share their own thoughts and ideas for improvement (where appropriate) and you will probably gain more engagement and improved performance.
This is a very common one as well. For most employees, a call to the office of their supervisors or leaders is a thing to dread. It automatically means they have done something wrong and puts them on the defensive. How did we, as a culture, come to this point? The point where we dread contact with our leaders for fear of some kind of reprimand? And what kind of leaders are we producing? The kind who only look good from behind.
I remember working with someone who only ever had anything to say when she felt I had done something wrong or when she needed some kind of report or update. Now I am a pretty self-directed person so I tried not to depend on her praise. However, do you agree that it would have been a lot easier for me if I had a sense that she at least noticed the things I did well? I know, from experience that with the people I train and coach, I get much better output when I acknowledge their good work than when I harp on their shortcomings. Is this true for you as well?
Although many people act like it doesn’t matter, the research is clear that when positive behaviour is pointed out and praised in an appropriate manner, performance improves. Surprisingly not just in that one aspect, but overall. There is also a correlation between the effect of the praise and the person from whom the praise comes. We value praise from people we respect and look up to. And who might that be in an organizational setting? It’s the leaders. The good ones at least.
As leaders, we should train ourselves to notice and acknowledge good behaviour even more readily that undesirable behaviour. We do not have to give material rewards. Many times, a simple acknowledgement will produce amazing results.
Choose one team member for each day this week who you will look genuinely for something they do well and then make it a point to acknowledge that person one-on-one. This can be a brief visit to the person’s desk or during an encounter at the water-cooler or even just a short note by email. Ensure you only point out the good in this interaction. Resist the temptation to add anything else. In other words, don’t pollute the praise.
This is also very commonplace. The more junior members of a team feel intimidated when it comes to giving feedback to their “superiors”. Very often leaders will say they welcome feedback but then their actions indicate the exact opposite. One common evidence of this is how they – the leaders – deliver feedback (See myth #1)
To be effective leaders, we must be secure in ourselves enough to honestly solicit feedback from those people we lead. And to make sure they feel comfortable and safe in giving us that honest feedback. We need, like the poet says, to have the courage to see ourselves as others see us. How else can we grow and improve? We need to get off our high-horses and come to terms with the fact that we do not know everything and in spite of our training and experience (in fact, sometimes because of our training and experience) we make bad calls. Sometimes we recognize this ourselves, but other times we need others to point this out.
Feedback, unlike the proverbial droppings, should flow uphill as well as downhill. Of course, as this defies the laws of gravity, we as leaders must supply the “lift” by encouraging, facilitating and safeguarding the process. Otherwise, we get out of touch with the way things really are and how they are coming off and this will negatively impact effectiveness and growth.
Decide and act on a plan to solicit honest feedback from both your leaders and from the people you lead on an ongoing basis.
Feedback is about the receiver. Period. It is about helping the person do better and be better. Often there is a motive to influence the receiver through the feedback. However, this is only appropriate when it is ethical and it is only effective when it is communicated with the best interests of all concerned in mind. What am I saying? You may have a thousand and one interest groups in mind as you share feedback but guess what interest group is number one in the mind of the person you are talking with? Yes, you guessed it. Number one interest group is Number one – Numero uno! That person!
Therefore, feedback, to be most effective must be framed in the context of benefits to the receiver. You can bring in other factors and groups like sales, brand promise and client satisfaction but these will motivate change when framed in the context of how it benefits (or harms) the receiver of the feedback as well as the organization.
People, by our nature, notice, remember and are motivated by things that benefit us. By delivering feedback that is receiver-centric, you greatly increase the chances of improved performance and outcomes. By framing outcomes in the context of the receiver’s benefit as well as the organization, you achieve more buy-in and a greater chance of improved performance.
Next time you give feedback, link or frame the desired behaviours (positive or otherwise) to the personal benefit for the receiver. You will find this approach much more effective in driving positive change.
Similar to most myths like blood-letting being helpful and the earth being flat, feedback myths have thrived because people have not questioned them. We opt for the status quo instead – it is easier and more convenient. But like other myths, stubbornly sticking with these feedback myths will drain us and our organizations of precious life-force and stop us from venturing to the ends of our people’s potential. With these myths busted, I hope you will make a change in how you give and receive feedback. Join the visionaries who see beyond myths to the possibilities of doing things better. And see your effectiveness as a leader and influencer increase for the good of all – including numero uno.
Until the next post, be your best and do your best.