Feedback 101 – Being Actively Progressive
24th July, 2015
In business and in life we all want to thrive and to really bring our best to all situations… right? So why do we avoid offering or asking for feedback? Surely it is easier to make improvements from an informed position than to spend time scrabbling around in the dark?
I know this is a topic I have explored before… but I thought it might be helpful to explore some of the ways we can potentially begin to loosen some of the perceived barriers to feedback. I am aware many of us are pretty comfortable with feedback – hence the title Feedback 101…
It never hurts to check in and often identifying where exactly the blockage lies means that we can target our conversations, energy and actions appropriately. So before you end up in a metaphorical A+E situation where remedial treatment is needed, let’s look at the A “to” E of it!
A is for Apathy – sometimes people just don’t care enough to look for opportunities to improve, they plod along with a “just enough” mindset, conserving the energy that could be used to give insights to help others or themselves make improvements.
- Do you have any team members this applies to?
- Ask questions; use a coaching approach to find out how can you address their energy and enthusiasm for the business.
- Be clear; what specifically have you noticed and what would you like to see different?
- How can you ensure they are inspired and motivated to make the changes you would like to see?
B is for Blindspots – it can be the case that people simply do not notice what is going on around them. They are absorbed in the task at hand and are not looking for ways to make things better. Blinkered in their approach and blinded to potential.
- Does this apply to your team?
- How can you take a leadership stance where you invite feedback, request that people share what is working and not working?
- How will you enable them to pay attention to what is happening around them and create discussions about “how you are working” not just “what is being done”?
- Perhaps encourage people to look for possible improvements and reward them for their suggestions.
C is for Cowardice or lack of Courage – occasionally people can believe that constructive developmental feedback is insulting or will upset the individual it is offered to, without considering there are many ways of communicating “room for improvement”. A fear of repercussions holds them back so it is easier to avoid taking action on their insights.
- Is this evident in your team?
- What personal connections can you make to establish greater team cohesion and rapport?
- How can you reassure and position feedback as a developmental tool?
- Where is your time best spent to ensure that useful insight is not lost or swept under the carpet?
- What are you personally as the leader, currently doing or accepting that is reinforcing this culture and how can you take action to increase transparency and objective evaluation?
D is for Denial – some individuals and teams think that they are already as exceptional as it is possible to be, so how could they possibly improve? They fail to recognise that the world around them is changing and that no matter how legendary they are, a regular review and focus on progression is healthy.
- Is this a relevant consideration for your team? Pride and humility work well together but less well in isolation… humility enables openness to improvement yet at extremes is apologetic and lacks gravitas. Pride can be motivating but at extremes is arrogant and blinkered.
- How would it be if you were to take the stance / default position of “you are already awesome and can be even more-so!” After all the purpose of feedback be it positive or constructive / developmental is about making us even more epic than we already are – it is a progressive tool!
- How can you balance not popping their balloon and at the same time encouraging a thirst for critical thinking, for looking at “what else, what is missing, what if”?
- Take a provocative devils advocate role, demonstrate the value of challenge and promote regular reviews.
E is for efficacy (skill) – some people might lack the skills to share their wisdom in a way that will lead to positive changes. Experience shows this is seldom the driving reason for failure to offer feedback, but it can certainly contribute to a sense of “no news is good news”.
- Which members of your team are least skilled and how can you provide some frameworks for them?
- It is essential with all feedback you are really clear that the message you want to convey (over and above the structure).
- It is also really important that you establish some balance… In general… Not necessarily in the same conversation! Many people get so caught up with having to sandwich some critique between two positives that the message becomes woolly. Where-as creating an environment where overall you have a tendency to on some occasions offer praise and on others you offer critique; continual review and assessment for progression becomes the norm without fear and blame… there is simply a “working with awareness” that develops.
- What I saw / heard was…
- How it landed from my perspective was…
- What you could do more (or less of) is…
- I noticed… (describe behaviour / action)…
- The impact was…(own your stance ie “I felt” or “I thought”)…
- What do you think you could do… (ask them how they can build on / work on this?)
Essentially as we all know feedback is never feedback at all, it is feed-forward. What you are describing is a past event… and you are doing exactly that “Describing”… sharing what you noticed (not giving an opinion).
The whole purpose of feedback is that we can do something different in the future so the sooner we recognise feedback as an opportunity to make improvements the sooner we can shift our thinking and appreciate that constructive developmental feedback is equally as generous as praise when apportioned appropriately.