I was interested to read an article in this months HBR (Harvard Business Review) about giving feedback. It starts to question whether that giving feedback is one of the better tools in the management armoury. There is no doubt that giving a appropriate feedback can be very powerful in the right hands.
Based on my previous corporate experience, I learned that this was a powerful skill and quite often we did not use it enough. Even worse we gave “soft” feedback which had the potential to have negative side effects, such as in inadvertently reinforcing the opinion or position that needed to be corrected. The 360 feedback tool is often used in corporate companies and espoused by some coaches, because of its confidential nature, assuming it is administered correctly. There is no doubting its power, but the HBR article casts doubts on individuals capabilities to give accurate feedback. Furthermore as humans, our brains drive us to find quick solutions. This can lead to cognitive bias or “skewing”, especially if we know the person and/or have formed an opinion of their performance, behaviour or character. This is why it is critical to be non-judgemental as much as we can and stick to the facts, observations to support our thoughts.
I have been in situations where I have been encouraged to give immediate feedback to associates. There is power in this, particularly where unnecessarily confrontational behaviour is being witnessed. We must be careful not to turn “Feedback” into a “Weapon”. It is there to serve the recipient, and should not be used as a means for getting back at someone, or trying to equalise a situation. When you hear the expression, “I am going to give you feedback”, you know immediately what is coming. Permission should always be sought if you intend to give feedback, as this will reduce the potential for heightened emotions and consequential confrontation. Furthermore our reaction to feedback is very personal, and can be determined by our level of energy. As iPEC trained coaches we define 7 levels of energy and individuals have different average resonating levels of energy. These can manifest themselves as different thoughts/actions; from 1-Victim, 2-Conflict to……. 6-Synthesis, and 7-Non-Judgement. Our energetic stress response is defined by the first two. As somebody who plans to deliver feedback, you should be cognisant of this, as things could backfire. Individual’s energy can vary dependent on the environment, and their own self-awareness and sense of well-being.
The article states that a manager cannot “correct” a persons way to excellence. There has to be a more positive way in which employees are praised for good work. As coaches, we don’t judge, but follow a line of enquiry that helps our clients discover for themselves what they need to do. A similar approach can be taken with feedback. This is where the recipient can discover how they can improve by leveraging what went well. This will be a way more powerful approach, and will deliver more sustainable improvement results. Energy Leadership is a powerful coaching approach, so if you are interested please take a deeper look at Facilitating Change.