When we consider athletes, dancers or other sportspeople today we know that they set goals, they train and they work hard to achieve optimum performance. After they perform, they often critique the performance and receive feedback from others. For instance a baseball pitcher might review video footage, they might seek out feedback from their coach or sports specialists. If they didn’t seek feedback, or weren’t provided with this feedback they would not be able to achieve or maintain the desired performance.
It’s no secret here that the culture at many organisations is one that shy’s away from having tough or difficult conversations with people. This includes peer-to-peer dialogue, upwards and downwards feedback or communication.
The best feedback for learning occurs in the moment, but I think it would be safe to say that many staff aren’t even receiving accurate feedback during appraisal time. It’s much easier for managers to tick the box and write a general comment about an employee than have an honest conversation about someone’s behaviour and performance. Sometimes it’s the threat of a grievance or investigation that put’s managers off.
We know feedback is crucial to improving performance so this is a culture we need to change.
The reason why people get scared and threatened by feedback is often because they aren’t used to receiving it. Often managers tippy toe around what they really need to say, whilst others blurt out loud and clear what’s on their mind in an inappropriate manner. Neither approaches are effective methods of providing feedback to employees, nor will they evoke a change in the individual’s behaviours. Balance is key.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you use the old hamburger approach (or shit sandwich as some people call it!) but it is about delivering a firm message in an appropriate way to other people in the workplace. We talk a lot about communication (yeah yeah we all know the model of giving and receiving a message)- so why don’t we think about this when giving feedback?
Some further thoughts: here’s a three-pronged approach I like (HT Evan Carmichael)
1. From an individual perspective, it is critical that people don’t take feedback personally. Take it as a means of learning.
2. From the team perspective, managers need to provide coaching in the spirit of improving performance, not naming flaws or faults or trying to change what makes someone who he/she is. Use it as a means of instruction.
3. From an organizational perspective, companies need to recognize and reward people who have the courage to remain open to giving and receiving constructive performance feedback. Exploit it as a way to develop talent and manage performance.
What is the feedback like in your workplace and how can we as HR professionals encourage it?