Feedback. The Mother of Improvement
If you manage, lead or coach a team - your fundamental purpose is the improvement of that team ...and the individuals in it. You cannot...repeat cannot...do this without giving feedback.
Feedback is the mother of all improvement. Without it people become stagnant, locked in the false world of their our own opinion. Worse still, folks can end up going in completely the wrong direction without knowing it.
A Telling Survey
We once worked with a company that had just conducted a worldwide study of employees in 32 countries asking this question; what do you want most from your boss?
Expecting results to vary based on cultural differences they were stunned to discover the top 2 responses were overwhelmingly similar in every country:
Tell me what I am expected to do.
Give me feedback on how I am going.
Both are so fundamental that you would expect them to be automatic in any functioning team / organisation. As the years have passed we have learned a simple lesson...it’s not automatic. The vast majority either don’t do it or do it poorly.
Why Managers Struggle
It’s hard to imagine why giving feedback is not a fundamental discipline used by all Leaders and Managers. There are some simple reasons: They worry about how the feedback will be received. They are not sure how to give feedback. They don’t see it as fundamental to the improvement of the team or the individuals in it.
Conditions for Success
Jill Geisler of Poynter wrote an excellent article in June 2015 on feedback pointing out that feedback has maximum impact when:
The source of feedback is credible and respected.
The content of the feedback is fair, understandable and useful
The recipient of the feedback hears it as the speaker intends, then acts on it.
Feedback in 5 Steps:
With those comments in mind here are 5 steps that will help you start to deliver feedback effectively and impact performance.
Step 1: Present Facts on Current Performance You have to put the truth of the current performance on the table...clear, black and white no grey. Stay with facts. Stuff you know...not hearsay or opinion.
Step 2: Describe exactly the Improved Performance you are targeting Then describe exactly the improved performance you are aiming at. Be as specific as you can. In these first 2 steps data, measurement and crystal clear examples really help.
Step 3: Start a discussion on “how to improve”. Before launching into your ideas ... first ask the individual or team for their input on how to improve. You want “buy in” – this starts with seeking their input first. It may even help clarify/improve your input into the discussion.
Step 4: Action
Agree on 2 or 3 very specific actions. Do not overcook the feedback - be very specific and keep it simple. You don’t want someone going away and working on 20 things just a few (maximum 3 points).
Step 5: Review
Set a follow up date to check on progress. Nothing will kill your feedback efforts quicker than not following up. Feedback should become a regular part of your management, leadership or coaching discipline (i.e. “repeat regularly”)
Situations vary, but feedback should be given to your team at least once every two weeks (usually during a team meeting). Then at least once a month you should spend one on one “feedback time” with each team member.
A Final Comment
Being effective as a manager depends almost exclusively on the relationship and trust you can establish with your team. Although it may seem daunting at first to give feedback (particularly if it’s negative), if it is done with the right intention, you maybe surprised to find how much it helps build a strong bond between you and your team.