Employees need specific and descriptive feedback if they are going to master a skill or achieve a goal. But this type of one-to-one feedback is in short supply in most organizations. The reason is two-fold. First, managers avoid giving feedback because they do not have a clear process to follow, and second, they are concerned that without such a process the conversation might be perceived as evaluative and judgmental. The result is hesitation on the part of the manager that results in the feedback session never occurring.

"The opportunity loss is tremendous," explains Susan Fowler, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. "We know from the research that if someone does not get feedback, they are not going to grow. If they get feedback that is ill-delivered or ill-defined, then their performance can even decline. The only way we see a dependable increase in performance is when a person gets well-crafted, targeted feedback in a timely fashion."

Providing good feedback does not occur naturally or by default. To provide effective feedback, leaders must learn, develop, and cultivate very specific conversational skills.

For Fowler, that means that managers—or anyone trying to help develop another person's skills—appreciate the importance of effective feedback; understand their personal motives, agenda, and responsibility for giving feedback; and know when and how to give the various types of feedback.

Start with Some Self-Examination

For managers looking to improve their feedback skills, Fowler recommends starting with a couple of self-directed questions. In her experience, many managers get off on the wrong foot because they focus more on their own needs than the needs of the person receiving the feedback.

As she explains, "I think that oftentimes, sadly, the feedback that we do give to people is based on our own need to be seen as an expert or to control the environment."

To address this, Fowler recommends that managers ask themselves, "Is this my need to give this feedback or am I giving this feedback because the other person's performance will actually benefit as a result of it?"

"You really have to understand whose need it is," Fowler explains. "Start with understanding your role with the individual. Whether it is your spouse, your child, someone you manage, a coworker, or a peer, ask yourself, 'What is my role here? What context am I in? Is it appropriate for me to give feedback? If it is appropriate, what is my purpose?'"

Match the Feedback to the Desired Outcomes

Once a manager is clear on the purpose of the feedback, the next step is to provide the type of feedback that will best meet the needs of the recipient. There are two main types of feedback—personalized and pure. Both can work well, as long as they are matched correctly to the needs of the employee.

Personalized feedback is the type that most managers are familiar with. This is judgmental information (either positive or negative) about past performance designed to encourage or extinguish future behavior. It takes the form of either praise, when used to recognize positive behavior, or re-direction, when used to discourage negative behavior.

Pure feedback is a new concept for most managers. It is feedback that is descriptive, objective, factual, and nonjudgmental. This kind of feedback allows the receiver to decide what to do with it. It is most appropriate when the goal of a manager is to develop an independent person who can judge for themselves how they are doing—to give themselves feedback.

Feedback Builds Relationships

The research says that people appreciate and respond positively to well-crafted feedback. It improves performance and helps people sustain higher levels of performance. From an organization's point of view, that's why you want managers who are skillful at giving feedback.

But feedback also builds mutual trust and individual respect that results in greater interpersonal relationships.

As Fowler explains, "At the end of the day, when you have given someone feedback that is in context, informative, and not judgmental, and that helps them improve, you've demonstrated that you care about them. It is a wonderful way to demonstrate caring."

Managers obviously have to be role models. They have to be giving the kind of feedback that they themselves want to get—not only from their managers but also from their direct reports.

"Giving effective feedback takes work," says Fowler. "You have to do homework. You have to gather the data. You have to plan it. You have to deliver it authentically. But when you do, it is servant leadership in action."

Copyright 2008 The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reprinted with permission from Ignite! the monthly newsletter published by The Ken Blanchard Companies® www.kenblanchard.com

P•A•S Associates has expertise in human resources and other areas involving employment issues. P•A•S Associates, in providing this tip, does not represent that it is acting as an attorney or that it is giving any form of legal advice or legal opinion. P•A•S Associates recommends that before making any decision pertaining to human resource issues or employment issues, including the utilization of information contained on this website, the advice of legal counsel to determine the legal ramifications of the use of any such information be obtained.
comments powered by Disqus
Enter your search term and press the return key on your keyboard.