Today feedback is an important tool to support people within an organization to develop their skills, work on critical areas and improve performance.
In other words, it is an increasingly popular and recognized method that helps people to work better!
But sometimes, if not often, feedback does not work as it should.
One of the reasons why it is often the subject of coaching or deepening in learning path.
Once in organizations the decision-making process was top->down, with directive and control modes. The information needed for the job was mostly cascading downwards and the role of the manager was to inform employees of decisions taken “upstairs”.
Today, modern companies are organised differently: more decentralised, matrix-based and agile. Employees enjoy greater autonomy in defining the way work is to be done, the focus is on HOW the result is achieved.
This new way of working means that managers can no longer simply give employees feedback on what they have done “right” or “wrong”. They have to listen, ask questions and create constructive dialogue.
Today, especially with talent and high performers, it is important to establish an open and two-way dialogue that strengthens the relationship, rather than one-way criticism.
In other words, the time has come to say ” STOP” to one-way feedback (from head to collaborator), episodic (i.e. infrequent and unplanned) and focused on past mistakes and not on “what can we do to…”.
Effective feedback is about the present and the future: it focuses on the strengths and potential of the employee in a continuous and constructive dialogue.
Try to think of the best chief you have met on your career path: he/she was probably good at giving effective feedback, that made you feel heard and understood and not just judged. The consequence was greater drive and willingness to work on critical areas and empower those of strength.
Each of us accepts constructive feedback more willingly – even when the critical areas outweigh the qualities – if we feel understood, listened to, appreciated and the dialogue is positive and oriented towards improvement.
But knowing how to give good feedback is a skill that must be acquired and developed over time. A good manager, like a good sports coach, when giving feedback must think about the next match and the next victory by asking himself/herself and others:
- What can we do to improve our chances of success next time?
- How to exceed expectations?
- How can we prepare for the future?
This obviously doesn’t mean stopping giving feedback on past performance, there is no doubt that thinking about past performance and discussing how things went is important.
Managers often do not have time to observe how their resources work or do not have enough experience to tell employees how the work should be done.
This causes people to experience feedback as a criticism that is often made some time after performance.
Although well-liked, feedback is a time when the person tends to feel judged. Feedback is useful when it is immediate and constructive, and again, feedback alone is no guarantee of outcome.
Improving feedback – the way you express your observations and opinions to people – helped by objective facts – is a way to create an ongoing dialogue with employees that helps them discuss issues they encounter in the execution of the activity.
Powerful feedback is a two-way street. Employees should feel encouraged to share their perspective, ask questions and find solutions to problems with their manager. And it should be a busy two-way street!
Frequent and meaningful feedback is key to promoting collaboration and engagement, even difficult situations become easier to deal with.
Tackling sensitive topics such as pay, promotion or negative performance will be scary if you have not built a climate of understanding and trust, if you are not used to confrontation on both sides.
This only happens through frequent and open feedback, where people feel that their opinions will be understood and respected.
But whose turn is it to take the first step? Managers can take the initiative in this case. A different way of giving feedback, moving from “pungent” to “powerful” feedback helps to change people’s expectations and perception of how the collaboration take place and how the work is done:
- Ask questions, don’t give answers;
- Listen without interrupting;
- encourage people to bring ideas without “killing” them if they are not like yours!
- Help them reinforce their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
Do it well but above all do it often!!!