Monday, December 7, 2015

3 B’s of Feedback For the 21st Century Leader

More than any other time in history, we live in an era where people crave and thrive on feedback. With the widespread adoption of social media tools in our lives, we can see, in real time, how everyone around us acts and reacts to our every move. This desire and craving does not stop when we enter our workplace. Now more than ever, it is increasingly important that 21st Century leaders understand the importance of feedback and how it impacts performance for today’s workers.  This trend calls for us to take a look at the delicate relationship between feedback, coaching and evaluation. In theory, these concepts are somewhat interchangeable, but in reality there are very important differences in the delivery of each. Today, we focus on feedback. While informal in nature, feedback is a critical tool in an arsenal of leadership resources to properly manage performance and get the best from our teams. If utilized regularly, it can be a tremendous asset to managing and improving performance.

We believe the onus for how feedback is utilized in work relationships falls on the leader and here are three ways to make feedback a key tool for success:

Be Clear

Make sure when giving feedback to an individual you separate the person from the behavior or action. Make it clear in your language exactly what you are giving feedback on. Try not to use absolutes like “always” or “never,” as most often they are not applicable. You must be direct but always deliver your truth with grace. Give examples in the recent past of the behaviors or actions you’d like to see. Not only does this reinforce what you want, it shines a light on what you don’t want.  Do not mix challenging feedback and positive feedback. Give them the challenges as stand alone feedback.  Clarity is often elusive in work environments so it’s important to address challenges when they occur.  Outline where a breakdown has occurred and allow space for you and your subordinate to solve it together versus you solving it for them.

Be Collaborative

One major difference between coaching, evaluation and feedback is the opportunity for collaboration on what’s next. In a healthy feedback loop, there are opportunities for co-creating solutions. Smart leaders know that they alone don’t have all the answers especially when it comes to bettering the performance of another human. We must be collaborative in our approach to feedback so we get a positive result and the change in behavior or action we want and believe we need. We have to make sure feedback in useful and actionable; that positive feedback reinforces behavior we like and collaborates on ways to spread it to others while challenging feedback opens the door to finding better ways to work together toward our goals and objectives.

Be Open

In many ways, this is the most important part of the feedback circle. You must be open to hearing the response to your feedback. Perhaps, your co-worker is in a very difficult time in life and has a very legitimate reason for the change in behavior or maybe something you or others in management have done created the disconnect you’re now giving feedback on. You also have to be open to receiving feedback. Once you open the “loop” of feedback to give to others, you must be willing to accept feedback about your actions and behaviors and you need to vocalize that. Don’t assume your team knows you want feedback, be direct and ask for it.

Following these tips can open a feedback loop that will raise the bar of performance in any work setting. Not only will it strengthen the performance management process, well executed feedback solidifies relationships and make for a better overall work environment for all.

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