Imagine for a moment if you got no feedback. None whatsoever. No-one tells you how you come across to others. You can’t work out if you’ve done the right thing, or not. You’re giving your partner a cuddle and squeeze too tight… without feedback, how would you know?
Feedback is a critical element in helping us to improve and in making sure we’re being understood (in all areas of our lives).
In my experience a lack of feedback is one of the most fundamental failings of today’s managers. Staff crave feedback. the good as well as the bad. If all we got was positive feedback we’d know what we’re doing right but we’d never find out what we’re doing wrong and so never really improve. There are a number of reasons why managers don’t give feedback, let alone the right volume or mix between positive and constructive (this is what people often refer to as negative). Some of the most common one’s I’ve encountered:
- Too nice – don’t want to hurt feelings
- Worried about how the recipient will respond
- Don’t think it’ll make any difference anyway
- Too busy
- Unsure how to frame potentially difficult messages
- Are themselves not receiving feedback and so not having it modelled)
- Personal attitudes (they’re paid to do the job, why do I have to thank them as well?)
- Fear or avoidance of conflict (potential or otherwise)
- Leaving it too long
What if I were to tell you that I had some important information that may affect your performance, or that I knew something about you that perhaps you don’t? You’d be interested wouldn’t you? It’s human nature to be curious. Your staff are no different. They’d want to know too. And keep in mind that they have information about you too. Now, don’t you want to know?
Creating a feedback culture in your team is simple (but not necessarily easy. Start by having a discussion on the current level of feedback. Is it sufficient? What’s missing? Then move into how would we/you like to receive feedback? Have a discussion on appropriate and inappropriate approaches. Then lead by example. Ask for feedback about your performance as a manager. Keep your ears open and your mouth shut. How you respond to feedback will influence how much more of it you get. You don’t have to accept it, just thank them for it and think whether it could be helpful. DO NOT ARGUE THE POINT. Remember, any persons perception of you is as seen through their lens at a given point (or points) in time. It may not be the full truth, but they WILL use it to make decisions about you.
If you want to give someone feedback try this simple little trick. Ask their permission. Something simple like “would you like some feedback on x?” or “I have a few observations I can share with you if you’re interested?” This is often sufficient to get them curious and then give you permission to give them the info. Empowering the recipient is also likely to reduce any emotional response they may have.
Golden rule. Recipient gets to choose. All you can do is offer the feedback. It’s up to them if they choose to accept it or not.
Watch also the ratio of positive to constructive feedback. Think of the positive (best reinforcer of behaviour by the way) feedback as putting cookies in the jar. You need them there to be able to take one (or more) out when giving the constructive stuff. Suggested ratio of positive to constructive is 5:1. Yup. 5 positive to every 1 constructive.
I’ve been delivering a workshop to teams to help improve their ability to give and receive feedback and have seen some dramatic improvements in performance, satisfaction and resilience. Implementing a culture of feedback is one of the most effective ways a manager can motivate, influence and reward their teams. Best of all…. it’s free!!