While so many of us acknowledge how critical ongoing feedback is to engaging and developing top contributors, very few actually do something about it. What's up?
Thanks to iPhones, BlackBerries, Facebook, Twitter and their contemporaries, we get so much real-time input in our daily lives. We're bringing this addiction to real-time to work. Yearly reviews don't cut it: we want to know how we're doing, what others think of us and what can we do to improve - and we want to know now! We're not afraid to ask for it, and we're not afraid to leave our jobs if we don't get it.
- Better team performance
- More engaged team
- Faster learning and development
- Better collaboration
- Improved focus and alignment
Many leaders recognize the importance of feedback, but very few seem to do anything about it.
So why doesn't more feedback happen? What's holding us back?
We're busy, feedback can be difficult to give and take, and many leaders don't have easy ways to share and track feedback. We're jaded by performance appraisals - heavy-weight processes designed for evaluation, pay, promotion and succession, fighting a fruitless battle to retrofit themselves for engagement, coaching, learning and development. Appraisals don't work for ongoing feedback because they're not designed for it. They're:
- Infrequent. Feedback isn't immediately useful, or delivered when it actually matters.
- Impersonal. The process is formal, rigid, top-down, stressful and even scary.
- Patchy. Tons of relevant, helpful feedback is forgotten because we don’t prepare for reviews until review time.
- Not actionable. Too much feedback is delivered at once (during the review) to be acted upon effectively.
- Misaligned. The focus is on pay, promotion and succession as opposed to learning, development and engagement.
- Time consuming
We spend more time preparing for reviews and worrying about them than we do actually considering and acting upon the feedback provided. That's frustrating. It's not what people want.
Some organizations simply ignore the problem and don't encourage feedback. That's dangerous too. When they're not getting enough feedback, people:
- Get frustrated
- Don't do their best work
I ran a poll on LinkedIn, targeting managers and executives with the following question: "Does your team want more feedback?"
The results? 76% responded "YES"
This same response rate was evenly distributed across company sizes, job titles, job functions, gender and age. View the details.
I also asked a couple of questions on LinkedIn about feedback and got some really insightful responses. Here are excerpts:
- "I'd like to know how management feels about my performance. For example, do they see areas where I could improve?"
- "...there are always 2 answers to this question. The first is the obvious response from all managers that feedback is critical/crucial etc. The second is the reality as experienced by the employees in the company."
- "Without feedback, none of us can improve our businesses..."
- People feel they don't have time for feedback.
- Feedback is easy to defer in favor of other priorities.
- We often assume people know what we're thinking.
- People aren't comfortable giving and receiving feedback.
- Feedback can create tension (or, at least, people fear that it can).
- No easy way to share feedback: face-to-face conversations aren't always possible or necessary, email can be a barrier to candid feedback, and performance appraisals don't give us what we need.
We can break through this barrier by getting in the habit of sharing feedback on a regular basis.
Getting in the habit of regularly sharing useful feedback is like going to the gym. You may really want to do it for some time, you may even know that people around you want you to do it, but for one reason or another, just don’t get to it. Once you do, however, and get into a routine, it feels great.
Leaders in the organization need to set the trend. These are the people who take initiative and lead by example, despite their position in the hierarchy.
Here are a few suggestions for getting in the practice of sharing useful feedback:
- Meet regularly with each member of your team, 1-on-1
- Recognize good work when it happens
- Where appropriate, make recognition public
- Proactively ask for feedback – of your employees, manager and other colleagues
- Encourage the behavior by saying “thank you” when you receive feedback
- Be specific when you share feedback – it’s more useful and more authentic
Uploaded images by Juan Carlos Solon.