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Feedback: Performance Improvement’s Low Hanging Fruit
Submitted by Karen Carleton on October 10th, 2012
We cannot underestimate the importance of environment in performance and its improvement. Receiving timely and helpful feedback – positive and constructive – helps us achieve better performance and productivity in organizations and in life. Sometimes we need praise or positive reinforcement from others who “catch us doing well.” At other times, we benefit from someone pointing out the proverbial “toilet paper on our shoe.” Of course, the feedback recipient needs to be open to it and act on it for the future. We have probably all stepped into politically dicey feedback situations. Still, it’s generally a good practice to at least give the feedback some thought as to what you can learn from it.
In organizations, surveys, focus groups or interviews with employees, customers and other stakeholders, allow us to collect people-centered data to guide decisions and future performance for achieving better results. Organizations, teams and individuals are never able to step outside themselves for an objective view, so it helps to have an outsider holding up the mirror. Seeking out the feedback of family, friends, significant others, supervisors, co-workers and others should not be underestimated.
Toastmaster’s International’s time-honoured method of improving communication and leadership skills through valued feedback in a supportive atmosphere is great proof that feedback is critical to getting better at something. Performance experts, Rummler and Brache, recognize “useful feedback” as a critical performance factor. This helps explain the 360 degree survey feedback currently in vogue. Genuine praise and practical suggestions help us learn what to “Start, Stop and Keep” doing by gaining otherwise inaccessible insights about ourselves.
It may sound rather Skinneresque, but we do have the ability to influence each other’s behaviour -for the betterment of all. The classic “Sandwich Technique” (positive-constructive-positive) aids feedback digestion. Some people prefer the direct method and prefer to skip the niceties (an approach I’ve noticed tends to be preferred by American colleagues). Interestingly, the work of Dr. Lionel Laroche reminds us that newcomers often have a different understanding of supervisory feedback, which can have far-reaching implications. Many newcomers find the ever-so-palatable “Canadian Feedback Sandwich” confusing compared to the direct method of open-faced constructive comment (which, in my experience, appeals more to the American palate).
Receiving and providing feedback in work and in life provide us with valuable opportunities to learn and improve. An absence of regular, accurate and timely feedback typically demotivates staff and tends to reduce productivity and performance. By the same token, believing you have no room for improvement is the height of ignorance and arrogance. I’ve seen that unfortunate habit in some managers, colleagues and acquaintances. While confidence (along with competence) is critical to performance, we should never rest on our laurels, thinking we are somehow above feedback for learning and improving or CHANGING for the better.
My Montreal-based colleague, Sonia Di Maulo, (a.k.a. “Feedback Queen of Canada”) believes, “Providing authentic feedback is a key factor that boosts growth and cultivates trust and collaboration.” She encourages using feedback as a tool to “harvest” workforce performance by using timely and accurate feedback as a performance management tool.
Are your managers capable of giving effective feedback to employees? How are they at receiving feedback? Give your managers the tools and skills they need to bring out the best from your employees. Download our 2 Way Feedback e-book. This practical guide will help your managers, supervisors and team leaders get everyone on board and going in the same direction -with enthusiasm. Find out more about 2 Way Feedback and download today.