They say feedback is the breakfast of Champions.
I say for an employee it is also lunch, dinner and dessert.
Whether we realize it or not, we’re always giving or receiving feedback. Sometimes it’s explicit, like in a one-on-one meeting, or it’s implicit, through our tone of voice and body language. Whatever be its manner, performance feedback can either inspire, uplift, and motivate the recipient to do better or it could even lead to de-motivation, resentment and loss of morale.
Feedback is an organisational imperative. To improve one needs feedback, to grow one needs feedback, to know that they are on the right track one needs feedback. Feedback is the invisible guide rope that keeps the team on track towards the organisation goals.
Hence, the ability to give and receive feedback is a skill that needs to be honed. Developing proficiency in this area is essential to building good relationships with and inspiring your team to peak performance.
Constructive performance feedback hinges on the three C’s – Clarity, Consistency and Consideration. These three C’s together help to shape the behaviour of employees and to keep them aligned to the organisation purpose. Lets consider each.
Bosses and managers avoid confrontation because they would rather have peace and harmony. As a result the tendency is to soften the edges of the feedback. The feedback – Karan always gives his best only allows Karan to walk away thinking that he is doing okay. The organisation doesn’t get any insight on his ability, contribution or potential.
If Karan is a high performer he is going to be frustrated. If he is a marginal performer he gets affirmed and his mediocrity is reinforced.
Instead a specific feedback would affirm Karan in areas he is doing well and help him precisely focus on areas he needs to improve on.
Performance feedback is not an opportunity to get even. Be tough, not mean. When someone drops the ball at work and you have to give him or her feedback, resist the inclination to belittle the person. Focus on the behaviour not on the person.
Discuss the behaviour you witnessed without allotting causes. For example, you could say that the report you needed wasn’t done on time, but don’t assume it was because he is not interested in his job. Instead, talk about the impact of not receiving the report on time and how that affected others. Give him a chance to explain why it wasn’t completed at the deadline.
There is no one way to do a task. In our eagerness to give feedback are we limiting the creativity of the staff. Before giving someone feedback, check to make sure that your expectations are reasonable . Limiting your staff to do everything your way limits innovation, learning in your organization and robs you of the varied skills, experience and perspective of your employees.
Don’t lose sight of your purpose for offering that feedback: to improve the employee’s performance.When a negative feedback is inevitable , make sure to deliver your criticism in private. There’s nothing more humiliating than being criticized in front of your co-workers.
Understanding that every person deserves a modicum of respect is critical to the entire process.
When I am happy I am effusive in praise, slow to criticize. When I am not happy I sting with my criticisms and am stingy with praise. That lack of consistency is felt by people who I work with and keeps them off balance. Keep your emotions outside the equation. Being aware of how I behave and how factors impact me is a good start to responding to opportunities for feedback in a consistent manner.
To these three C’s we can also add the fourth C which is Constant. The feedback needs to be part of the routine. Leaders, managers and supervisors need to be praising and critiquing everyday whether it is effort or outcome.
Based on the way it is delivered feedback can be of two types – Informal & Formal –
Informal feedback is spontaneous and made on the spot when possible. The closer in time and space the behaviour is paired with the consequence , the stronger the connection. There are different ways to do this. It can be as simple as a compliment (Hey Arun , nice job with the presentation) or mild rebuke ( Nitin, need you here okay?)
Informal feedback needs to become part of the workplace culture. Its especially important for new employees as they learn the ropes of not only their new job but also the company. Givning feedback early and often leads to the employee getting shaped up and aligned much faster.
The power of informal feedback cannot be overstated. When people get quick feedback the damage mistakes is minimized leading to faster results.
Formal feedback is given regularly on a weekly monthly or quarterly basis. Too many times when someone is called in for a one on one its only for screw-ups. Eric Schmidt the ex-CEO of Google shares an example where an engineer had shown exemplary performance so Eric decided to call him to his room personally. The engineer came in white and ashen faced and asked – “Have I done anything wrong?”. At Novel the culture was that if the CEO calls you for a one on one – it was to get fired.
Positive or helpful feedback makes sure the person knows what went right and what went wrong and points them in the right direction.
To sum-up, feedback is a crucial organisational tool. The satisfaction you gain from watching your team work together like a well-oiled machine will make the effort expended on your regular feedback sessions entirely worthwhile.
Prakash Francis is a Talent expert based in Bangalore.