10 skills at the heart of every leader’s arsenal.
“Topic 5 – Feedback Strategies”
transcript written by Wayne Brown
Welcome to topic 5 – Feedback Strategies. Upon completing this episode, you will have already reached the halfway point in our 10 topic Basics series. It’s great progress, and hopefully, by now, you are starting to see some positive results with your team’s performance and the business improvement itself.
Armed with all of the preparation steps covered during the first 4 topics, we’re now ready to launch into feedback – this can be the difficult part of the whole process and has the potential to unravel all of our hard work. Still, it can and should be highly rewarding and fruitful for both employee and you as the leader with the right planning and consideration.
As you may recall from topic 4, we have already identified that our online video gamers thrive when there is an appropriate level of challenge. They can see progress and constantly receive feedback.
This opens the door for you with all 4 workforce generations who are open and even seeking feedback, provided you learn how to deliver it correctly. So let’s get started.
Based on the advances being made in understanding the human mind through neuroscience studies, we are beginning to realize a need to re-think our traditional ways with one of the most important areas of Leadership – Feedback. Therefore, from the outset, we are going to flip this feedback topic on its head.
Numerous studies now point us in the direction of ensuring the first feedback engagement is for leaders and their teams to understand the importance of “soliciting feedback,” and that must be a pre-cursor to the leader providing employee feedback. The research suggests that there are various advantages for the employee who solicits constructive feedback – aside from these studies showing that employees tend to be more successful overall, they are also perceived by their leaders and colleagues as more approachable with a willingness to improve.
An interesting question that might arise if you’re your employee is, “Why do we need to receive feedback at all ?”
Well, the answer is that it plays a valuable role in multiple ways,
- from improving self-awareness
- enhancing self-esteem
- raising morale
- encouraging people to want to learn
- offering reassurance
- improving individual performance.
So let’s continue by digging a little deeper into the science of what happens in our brain when we receive feedback – good or bad.
Do you recall our SCARF model discussions from Topic 2 and the threat or reward reaction based on how our brains perceive the situation? The same amygdala reaction is at play here. Positive feedback is seen as a reward, while negative feedback (which we refer to as Constructive feedback) is seen as a threat.
Hence the importance of every employee to understand the feedback process and approach so that they can have an opportunity to prepare their mind ahead of the feedback.
In particular, receiving constructive feedback can be emotionally draining when taken as a personal attack. It’s hard for us to feel like we’re wrong, and it’s even harder for us to receive criticism from others. According to the studies, our brains look to protect us when we hear information that conflicts with our self-image, and our instinct is to first change the data rather than ourselves. Another unique thing about criticism is that we often don’t remember it accurately, although we seldom forget receiving it.
Professor Clifford Nass from Stanford University says that “almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail.”
It’s called a “negativity bias.” Our brains have evolved separate, more sensitive circuits to handle negative information and events, and they process the bad stuff more thoroughly than positive things. That means receiving criticism will always have a greater, longer-term impact than receiving praise.
Hopefully, from this short intro, you can see the value of first studying our hard-wired reactions & how to cope with them.
Now to look at the way to solicit feedback as a leader, which is invaluable as we can gain powerful insights from our employees. While it might seem awkward to turn the tables, asking your team members to offer feedback on your performance as a leader can help you strengthen that performance and build a stronger bond with your team.
A couple of ways to approach this in the first instance without making anyone feel uncomfortable is to ask:
- “How can I make your job easier?” or
- “What type of support could I offer to help you perform your job better.”
One underlying consideration to receive genuine feedback is that trust must exist between the leader and their team.
To support that trust, here are 5 tips for ways in which to respond when receiving that feedback;
- 1. Be open.
- 2. Don’t take it personally.
- 3. Don’t argue.
- 4. Consider it a skill and practice it.
- 5. Thank the person who delivered it.
Talking one-on-one with your employees is a great way to collect employee feedback on engagement and satisfaction. However, there are multiple other ways to obtain this feedback. Consider the following additional methods to ensure variety and depth.
In todays’ technology-driven environment establishing a means for employees to leave anonymous comments or suggestions is common practice.
The use of larger employee surveys can be expensive but highly insightful.
One effective team tool which we use regularly is the “Johari Window” approach – it offers a great way to deepen the trust and obtain feedback. We’ll provide a link for this in our notes.
Right, so we have taken that important first step and educated everyone on why and how to receive feedback. It’s now time to look at delivering feedback.
According to a Gallup report, meaningful employee feedback increases employee engagement, and they would even prefer to receive negative feedback instead of no feedback at all.
It found that an employee who is ignored by a manager is twice as likely to be actively disengaged at work than an employee whose manager focuses on their weaknesses.
- Feedback can motivate individuals and teams;
- facilitate the resolution to a specific challenge;
- open lines of communication;
- foster employees’ professional development;
- and increase employee engagement.
How you provide feedback to employees has a tremendous impact on its effect.
These strategies can help you deliver feedback that is both powerful and productive. For the remainder of this discussion, we’ll look at 4 key areas – Our preparation, Informal feedback, Formal feedback, and feedback techniques.
A favorite and famous quote from ULCA head coach John Wooden is “Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail” and provides a great opening reminder for us here about the importance of this preparation step.
- Doing anything well requires effort and thought.
- Consider the feedback culture of the organization,
- consider the background leading to this feedback,
- will it be perceived as a reward or threat discussion,
- what is the best location based on whether it is going to be formal or informal?
- If formal, what is the best time of day for scheduling it
- – what does it relate to
- – is the feedback on an individual task, team project, or broader performance review.
Depending on the situation, there are likely numerous other considerations.
Remember that great, constructive feedback requires preparation on your part. You can’t just offer someone feedback as you’re running to another meeting.
The recipient is bound to have questions for you or, at the very least, a response. Perhaps they will react defensively or want to truly understand the situation, in which case a few brief sentences or words are not going to be enough.
So consider whether you have planned the entire process and thought through the likely responses, together with how you will reply.
Here are some additional considerations regardless of formal or informal feedback…
- Is the leader credible in the eyes of the recipient?
- Is the leader trusted by the recipient?
- Is the feedback conveyed with good intentions?
- Is your feedback fair, accurate, and directly applicable to the employee’s tasks?
- Do your comments focus on single behaviors that direct the employee’s attention to a few specific and important improvements?
- Were any of the current development areas discussed previously?
And finally, before starting several mistakes which you should avoid…
- Talking too much and not allowing time for the recipient to respond
- Failing to listen to the recipient’s feedback
- Providing the solution without input from the recipient
- Not connecting follow-up plans to review the progress.
The key takeaway to remember is that feedback is a two-way conversation – the better you are prepared, the easier it will be to relax, listen and seek a joint solution.
Strategy # 3: Informal Feedback Opportunities…
As a manager, ongoing informal feedback can help you recognize an employee’s accomplishments or improve performance in real-time.
Informal feedback that is sincere, fair, and accurate can considerably impact performance, with one study suggesting 39% improvement.
Feedback can be positive or constructive: Give positive feedback to recognize and reinforce actions or behaviors you value and want to continue.
While we provide constructive feedback to identify actions or behaviors that weren’t effective and offer alternatives or suggestions for improvement for the next time the situation arises.
Understand that offering guidance on improvement is critical; without it, the person will be uncertain about avoiding the same or similar issues in the future.
Here’s a simple 4 letter acronym to help you remember the basics of informal feedback – It’s called FAST, which stands for Frequent, Actionable, Specific, and Timely.
I’m always reminded of the methods outlined in the book The One Minute Manager written by Ken Blanchard and Spence Johnson when we speak about informal feedback.
If you don’t know it, we will include the link in our show notes.
Strategy # 4: Formal Feedback Opportunities…
We now move onto formal feedback and note that this will exclude discussion on the annual performance review, as we cover that issue during the next video. For now, we will turn our focus to the formal settings related to face 2 face progress or completion reviews for assigned tasks.
Ensuring that you have a private location where both parties can feel relaxed and not on display is a must, and it’s also preferable to be in a neutral environment is possible.
Remember that even constructive feedback can promote growth in individuals and relationships if handled appropriately, so here’s a few behaviors to keep in mind.
- Enter a situation with the desire for dialogue, be discreet, show empathy, and use active listening skills.
- Understand why you are offering criticism. (Is it appropriate/constructive?)
- Engage in perspective-taking or role reversal.
- Offer criticism of the person’s behavior, not the person.
- Focus on a particular situation rather than a general or abstract behavior
- Direct your criticism to the present rather than the past
- Avoid “critical overload.”
- Focus criticism on behaviors that the other person can change.
And now, to wrap up this topic with a brief look at several feedback models which help provide structure for the leader during the conversation with employees.
These are not the only models available but are some of the more common. Whichever you choose to utilize, remember to be clear about the feedback and how you will introduce it, be clear about the outcome you want and changes required. Also, allow the employee time to respond, so ask for their input and practice your active listening techniques.
We start with the sandwich model, which has lost popularity in more recent years mainly because the assumption is that employees today expect constructive feedback and feel that wrapping it between praise cheapens the process.
Whether this is correct or not, we have decided to at least present the method here for your awareness, and if you feel inclined, try it out and judge for yourself.
Essentially wrap any criticism between open and closing praise.
The next model is called BOOST, an acronym standing for Balanced, Observed, Objective, Specific and Timely. The first word BALANCED relates to ensuring that you provide genuine examples of successful behavior coupled with positive praise before offering feedback related to issues or criticizing. The tool seems to work quite well and provides a simple, clear structure for the leader to follow.
The final model and perhaps most used today is called SBI – meaning Situation, Behavior, Impact and contains many similarities to BOOST. We are providing links to all three models for further exploration as you desire.
That brings us to the end of our topic 5 videos covering the basic but critical discussion on successful approaches towards feedback.
Armed with this new knowledge, there’s never been a better time to find one of your team and put the learnings into practice. As they say – Practice makes perfect. However, because this is such a crucial area for you to develop as a leader, we’ve decided to make the next topic in the series a follow-on to this one.
So next up… Topic 6 is Achievement reviews. In this episode, we continue with our feedback discussion, looking at how technology is now providing everyone with the opportunity for instant feedback in some companies. Also, we disrupt the annual performance review process with another twist in our approach by turning the focus towards the successes rather than the failures.
I’m very much looking forward to chatting with you again in a couple of weeks. Don’t forget to leave a comment below and hit the subscribe button to receive automatic notification each time we release a new topic.
Listen to this podcast on Stitcher.
Listen to this podcast on iTunes.