The impact of feedback on performance

16 Apr 2012

“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”
Charles Schwab

When was the last time you gave someone in your team feedback on their performance?

It is surprising how many people do not receive consistent and objective feedback on how they are doing at work. When it is delivered it is often restricted to annual appraisals and review periods.  If they are operating in such a void how it is possible for them to determine how well they are doing?

Instead feedback should form part of an ongoing process of communication between management and staff. When analysing why great Leaders are “great” one of the common themes identified is the consistent and regular feedback that they give. Their people are left in no doubt as to where they stand, how well they are doing and how they are contributing to the strategic goals of the organisation. Effective Leaders view feedback as an opportunity to reinforce company values, manage expectations and maintain and improve standards of behaviour and performance. As a result staff involved in the feedback process feel valued, respected and part of the success of the company.

Infrequent feedback can often be inadequate leading to a defensive attitude from employees and result in managers being reluctant to engage in the process of feedback.

So how can this be prevented and ensure feedback is the positive and valuable process it can be?

Here are 7 simple tips to consider;

1)      Ask questions before you give your feedback.  Your priority at the start of the process should be to test the individual’s understanding of a situation, what they think is expected of them, how they believe they handled a situation, what options were available to them, what they would do differently (if at all) if they were to do it again. Establishing their perception of a situation will allow you to determine the approach and message you want to give to maximise the learning from the feedback.

2)      Share meaningful feedback on a regular basis. If you see somebody doing something well don’t wait for the annual appraisal or monthly update, give them suitable praise and recognition as soon as the opportunity arises. Equally if you identify an opportunity for improvement give them appropriate feedback when they can influence the outcome. Regular consistent feedback like this builds trust and confidence and allows the individual room to flourish.

3)      Encourage them to generate their own solutions whenever possible. It isn’t always necessary for people to do things your way; there are nearly always alternative methods to achieve the same goal. If the individual has a suitable solution they will take far greater ownership of the situation if you provide support to allow them to run with it.

4)      Focus on behaviours and not personality. If you describe someone as lazy they will automatically become defensive. Instead talk about the behaviour that gives the appearance that the individual is not as motivated as they could be. For example if you are working with a team of sales people and one person in the team is not making as many sales calls as the others describing them as lazy will not lead to them improving their performance. Instead you need to try and understand what is stopping them from making as many calls as the others, so you need to use the evidence of the call rates to open up the discussion.

5)      Become an ally and not a critic. Link the performance feedback to the goals of the individual. If you do so your communication becomes less about "fixing" or criticizing, and more about helping them achieve their goals and they will be much more open to hearing your feedback and concerns when they know you have their best interests at heart.

6)      Avoid the why question. The use of open questions in the feedback process is really important and can produce the results you seek. However asking “why” can be viewed as accusatory and can lead to the individual becoming defensive and lead to a loss of trust. Instead use who, what, where, how questions as these will encourage greater dialogue.

7)      Walk the walk. Be open and seek constructive feedback on your own performance. People will be more open to feedback from you when they see you actively seeking advice and feedback on how you can improve. Ask your staff, peers and line manager for feedback on what you do well and what they think you could do better. If people see feedback as a normal process they will be far more open to it as a result.

Giving regular consistent feedback is an important in a manager’s toolbox and can lead to improvement in performance, trust, loyalty and job satisfaction. The above are just a few of the many tips that are available in delivering effective feedback.

Perhaps you have some to share with us?

How will you handle feedback in the future?

When are you going to give that feedback?

“Feedback has an air of caring concern, respect, and support. Far from being a sugar cookie, feedback is an honest, clear, adult to adult exchange about specific behaviours and the effects of those behaviours.”

Gary R. Casselman & Timothy C. Daughtry