Are you Investing In Feedback
that Returns Solutions Not Problems
For those of us who have been working in the corporate setting for a duration as less as six months even, the term “Feedback” would turn out utterly familiar. Isn’t it? And, it becomes a lot more common or rather, significant during the annual performance appraisal season, you’d agree. As a leadership coach, I have come across a number of instances where individuals are either stumped after receiving a negative feedback during the appraisal meeting, or apprehend a huge criticism through upcoming feedback from their managers or senior colleagues — right after seeing an escalation in a critical project. These instances instigate me to ask all leaders a simple question: How many times in your entire career, have you seen your feedback – given or received for the recipient’s benefit – had a really positive influence? In fact, those few, whom I asked this right before writing this piece, lamented that on most of the occasions, their feedback challenged the mental resilience levels of their reports. The non-resilience showed up in the form of an emotional outburst or a lowered motivation or confidence level and even provoked some of their team members to even leave the organization.
If any of this sounds familiar to you – here’s something for you to deeply reflect upon – take a step back and understand what a Feedback really means, and how, intentionally or unintentionally, you might have been using it to discuss a problem and not a solution.
Feedback or Feedforward : Make a Choice
The word Feed “BACK” focuses on the past, reflecting on something that has already occurred. This space is really limited and opposed to something that Dr Marshall Goldsmith points to, too:
“Feedforward helps people envision and focus on a positive future, not a failed past. Athletes are often trained using feedforward. Racecar drivers are taught to, Look at the road ahead, not at the wall. Basketball players are taught to envision the ball going in the hoop and to imagine the perfect shot. By giving people ideas on how they can be even more successful, we can increase their chances of achieving this success in the future.”
Ironically, a feedback session often turns out more as a courtroom for the one receiving it. No matter how constructive a feedback may sound, if not well defined or thought-through by the leader, it may eventually lead to a lost focus and negative energy. If that makes you rewind the episodes of some of the recent feedbacks you gave, and leaves you a bit perplexed about your self-evaluation, your solution lies right here, as Dr Marshall says, “A constructive feedback is supposed to focus on the performance, not the person”.
The bottomline is, that you transform your every feedback into a feedforward – it’s only the approach that differs.
Giving Feedback the Right Way: How
Something that has occurred in the past can’t be changed. Digging deep into the past mistakes may not head you into the right direction. Infact, it might bring up unwanted stress. If you, instead, focus on the future by ideating together on how you and the team member can make things work, you begin to convert a feedback into an opportunity to grow. Let me ask you a question here and you need not answer me but to yourself: How often you ask your employees or team members if they need help? Think through.
Also, you must pay attention to this fact that as an employee of a company how much do you know about your company values, and what they really mean. You must try to find time and read about these values, and use them while giving the feedback. So, here’s how you begin:
Clearly Identify the Key Feedback Point Before you Speak:
This has to do with the main problem area. If someone in your team isn’t performing in certain areas, but has a distinct strength that she or he brings out in other areas, you must capitalize on that and talk specifically about the only problem area during a feedback interaction. Beating around the bush or criticising the recipient on multiple things would lead to complexity, and may expose you, as a manager, to the risks of being labelled back. For instance, you are bothered about the quality of reports prepared by someone in your team, who is otherwise excellent at this job. You want to give him this feedback and figure out the reason for distractions. So, while talking to him, you must clearly talk about the issue of reporting, instead of talking in general about his performance going down. If you become directionless in your feedback, your direct report might assume that you are intentionally trying to demean him (which you might not intentionally be doing but perceptions form reality).
Confine your Feedback to An Action Not Individual:
Instead of labelling the person for an action or behaviour that went wrong, you must talk specifically about how such actions cause troubles further. For instance, rather than saying, Ms. X, you have a bad temperament, you can rephrase and say – “When you react this way, you are limiting your perspective or you may be creating a stress for yourself and that is not serving you. I wonder if everything is okay with you. I see a huge potential in you and hence, I want to help you in channelizing it for a better productivity.”
Empathise with the Recipient While Speaking:
Your ability to empathise defines your level of emotional intelligence as a leader. When you apply this to feedback, you need to ask yourself that what is the best possible way to say the same thing in a much more acceptable and motivating way. For instance, if Ms Y in your team made a certain presentation which was not up to the mark. Here, if your intent is to help her present better the next time, you must make her understand the gaps. So, you could start by saying, “Ms Y, I wanted to speak to you about your presentation yesterday. How did you feel about it? Did you find anything especially challenging?” Then, hear her out completely before making your point. She might already speak about the problem that you wanted to talk about. You can ask her “How can I support you going forward? Let’s make it better by working on it together”.
Give a Tough Feedback in a Meaningful Way:
This practice is really important when you need to convey a highly critical point – something that might initially cause a turmoil in the recipient’s head, you feel. So, instead of coming directly to the point, since the team member is already anticipating it, you can ease out his stress by talking about his strengths. Appreciate him for something you liked out of a new deliverable that he completed. That won’t mean I am asking you to sugar coat your feedback. All I am referring to is that you weave in the developmental opportunity in a smarter way.
This works like magic! This will make the other person feel more receptive and confident as he/she will feel that you are actually paying attention to his strength and what he is good at and you really want him to develop in other areas that are crucial for the business.
A feedforward in the guise of a feedback, can effectively cause a ripple effect on the recipient or an overall team. Giving and receiving feedback is essential for the growth of leaders and teams. Rather than proving someone wrong, the whole idea about giving feedback is to increase the desire to work rather than killing their motivation. You need look for the intention and your energy behind giving feedback. Ask yourself that whether you connect with others and really have the intent to help them improve with your feedback.