Feedback is a powerful tool that is too often ignored by companies today. Grant Wiggins, renowned thought leader in educational leadership, defined feedback as information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal. It serves many purposes, including “improving performance, developing talent, aligning expectations, solving problems, guiding promotion and pay, and boosting the bottom line.” Feedback is critical for individual development, and as a result, whole teams and organizations can grow from good feedback.
Unfortunately, many supervisors lack confidence in their ability to deliver accurate criticism. Good feedback enables development by giving someone the self-awareness to growth make critical steps toward growth. There are several measures every professional leader can take to give their employees the information they need to learn and grow.
Creating the Right Environment for Feedback
The first step in delivering effective feedback is to create a collaborative environment where feedback is valued and encouraged. Leaders can demonstrate an openness to feedback themselves by admitting mistakes, asking for feedback, and deferring to the wisdom of the group. They also need to take time to genuinely get to know each member of his or her team as this will help foster a trusting and open environment.
Feedback should be a regular part of weekly conversations rather than a special occasion. It works best when it is a regular process instead of a formal performance review once or twice a year. Regular feedback gets team members acclimated to criticism, reducing the defensive barriers to feedback.
Effective Delivery Of Feedback
Feedback should focus on specific behaviors and outcomes. When feedback is framed as a means to reach a specific goal, it becomes an opportunity to solve a problem rather than being perceived as personal criticism.Specific and measurable feedback gives employees actionable insights that they can use to make professional improvements. A good additional step for the effective manager is to is to ask the receiver how he or she sees the situation being discussed and to invite them to assess their own performance. This not only makes the feedback more interactive and engaging, but also gives the deliverer more background information about the situation.
Individuals may react defensively when receiving feedback. Defensiveness is a natural response to protect oneself, but in this case, this kind of behavior is not very helpful because it decreases receptiveness to criticism. In order to avoid potential defensiveness, reinforce the benefits and reasons for feedback at the onset. Make sure he/she knows that feedback is simply a part of the team environment, and that he/she is not being singled out in any way. The more the receiver understands the value of feedback and its importance to the corporate culture, the less likely the team member will react negatively.
Granted, It is still possible the receiver will disagree with the feedback. When that happens, allow your team member the opportunity to ask additional questions to get a better understanding of what is being communicated. Hopefully this will allow both parties to understand each other’s perspectives even if there is no mutual agreement. Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, however, the person giving the feedback should communicate clear expectations they have for the other person.
After delivering the feedback, follow up and check on any improvement in the behavior discussed. Follow-up demonstrates to your team that the feedback you give is purposeful and delivered to achieve meaningful changes or results. During these follow-ups, you may also find it helpful to get feedback on the way you gave the feedback. Asking if the conversation was helpful and how it could be improved will make the experience a development opportunity for both the receiver and the deliverer.
Giving feedback is difficult and sometimes met with resistance. It is commonly underutilized because people are often uncomfortable with the process. But because it is an important component of personal and professional development, supervisors must learn how to do it and do it well.