Giving impactful feedback is one of the hardest tasks to accomplish, isn’t it? Then again, it is one of the most effective drivers for individual and organizational success. Let’s take a look at the current situation of workplace feedback and its consequences, the importance of feedback, and what you can do to deliver it with impact and integrity. There is a link to a download at the bottom of the article.
The term ‘feedback’ was coined in the 1860’s during the industrial revolution to describe the way in which outputs of energy, momentum or signals are returned to their point of origin in a mechanical system. In the context of communication that means: Feedback is helpful information or criticism about prior action or behavior from an individual or a group who can use that information to adjust and improve current and future actions and behaviors.
In essence: Feedback is information and the pre-requisite for adjustment, learning and growth.
In the workplace, „feedback“ is really three different things, with different purposes:
- Positive feedback – AKA appreciation feedback. Its purpose is to see, acknowledge, connect, motivate, thank, or praise.
- Constructive feedback – AKA developmental feedback. Its purpose is to help the receiver expand knowledge, sharpen skills, and improve capabilities.
- Evaluation. Its purpose is to rate or rank against a set of standards, to align expectations, and to inform decision- making.
Always be clear about the purpose of your feedback. Separate evaluation from constructive and positive feedback. We need all three, but mixing them puts us at cross-purposes.
Feedback is integral to people management and developement. The MindGym found out that employees whose managers excel at people development perform 25% better than those with managers who struggle with developing others:
- 16% of the impact is attributed directly to the development of an individual‘s skills and capability.
- The other 9% come from a more positive attitude because the individual feels that their manager is investing in them.
What kind of development opportunities do employees expect? The McKinsey War for Talent survey revealed that feedback-based development opportunities like mentoring, coaching, informal feedback are seen as absolutely essential to someone‘s career development, yet companies are not sufficiently effective at providing them. While companies are more effective at providing formal training or stretch objectives and special assignments, those are not viewed as important to their career progression by respondents. Feedback is turning into the key ingredient for career advancement and productivity.
In 2014, consulting firm Zenger Folkman conducted and analyzed research about preferences for giving and receiving feedback. They discovered some fascinating conclusions:
- The great majority of leaders tend to avoid giving feedback, especially negative feedback. Leaders said they found that giving negative feedback was a stressful and difficult experience.
- About half of leaders tend to avoid giving positive feedback, while the other half describe themselves as comfortable giving positive feedback.
- Virtually every employee in an organization wants more feedback. In their study, almost 2/3 agreed that „my performance and possibilities for success in my career would have increased substantially if I had been given more feedback“.
- Almost all recipients of feedback state that corrective feedback improves their performance when it is presented well.
These research findings suggest that there is not only a discrepancy in preferences for giving and receiving feedback but also that giving and receiving feedback in organizations is a complex and unpredictable process.
More feedback statistics:
- The psychological bulletin states that 30% of performance reviews are decreasing employee performance.
- The Corporate Executive Board states that 2/3 of employees with highest performance scores aren’t actually the highest performers.
- They also found out that 3 – 5 % improvement in performance is all managers believe will be generated in the process.
- In organizations with a positive or effective feedback culture, there is a 14.9% lower turnover rate.
- If employees are ignored by their managers, they are twice as likely to be disengaged.
- 65% of staff said they wanted more feedback, while
- 58% of managers think they give enough.
Again, there is a disconnect in the demand-supply-chain of feedback. It looks like there is something wrong with the way feedback is done in most companies. Feedback is in high demand, however, it is either badly executed or not provided at all.
Feedback in a formal annual review from your boss is important, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. The kind of feedback that can have a genuine impact on your career is deeper and broader. It goes beyond measuring how well you met the goals or deadlines. It uncovers how your peers feel about working with you, how you communicate and collaborate with them, how they perceive your ability to handle stress and adversity.
Admittedly, getting feedback on these intangible skills is a little more challenging than looking at numbers on a spreadsheet. But don‘t we all know the brilliant people in the office who are repeatedly passed over for promotions? Many times their lack of intangible skills is the primary culprit. Despite their intelligence, they simply aren‘t perceived as „management material“. If they could just get honest feedback from their co-workers, they might discover important information to help them avoid years of frustration and self-doubt.
An important step to make feedback on these intangible skills sticky and meaningful is to well prepare for the feedback conversation, for example by applying a helpful framework. The Center for Create Leadership’s „S.B.I.“ feedback model is a tool that helps depersonalize the feedback provided and leaves the person time to respond. Effective feedback is based on observed behavior and tells the receiver the impact of a specific behavior on you.
- S – Situation: Describe the ‚when‘ and ‚where‘ of the situation
- B – Behavior: Describe the other person‘s behavior. Only mention actions that you have observed
- I – Impact: Communicate the impact of his/her behavior on you and others
There are numerous feedback tools and frameworks available. We have compiled our favorites in this downloadable document.
The art of engaging in a feedback conversation requires you to have the right intent, to be fully present and to be a great empathic listener. No matter what type of feedback is shared, it is important to remain compassionate and caring. Feedback should be a source of positive motivation to either improve or continue performing at an exceptional level, and the tone by which that feedback is shared can make a world of difference.
Make spotting strengths in others and yourself a daily routine. Those „Popeye“-moments help you to have better relationships and communication with your team and at home, be happier, boost performance, and accomplish goals.
Contact us if you want to do your best to develop the routine of strengths-spotting or take your giving feedback to the next level.
Lead fearlessly, Annette.