If feedback is the breakfast of champions a lot of us are going hungry.
There's no question on-target feedback delivered appropriately has a real influence on driving improved performance over the long-term. Cultures where feedback is a healthy component tend be more dynamic and adaptive learning environments.
Feedback as norm.
So why isn't this done more often? Why do firms struggle to get this model right and what can we do about that?
- Much as we love to throw the label around sounding like our organizational ducks are in a row the truth is many of us don't know how to give feedback. Where coaching is real time – a la a teachable moment – feedback is more seasoned and reasoned resounding a thematic undertone. Feedback is a distillation of those moments presented in summary fashion used to highlight this theme. A thread or strain of necessary improvement objectives underscored by a few illustrations. Where coaching is on the fly feedback is reflective in nature. Quite simply, feedback is a measure of how we show up or “look” in the workplace when these moments are considered in total.
- The biggest challenge to effective feedback systems is starting too late. High performing environments start with feedback on day one: as people enter the workforce we pay attention to performance and give them feedback from early days forward. Why? We want to develop them for sure, but more important we want people to get used to accepting and using feedback from the beginning. In other words we want to establish feedback as a part of culture. Many firms make the mistake of saving feedback up (for a rainy day): this only surprises people as they go weeks or months without receiving input before a cloudburst erupts. Absent feedback most people presume things are satisfactory if not excellent. Then someone unloads the “feedback” they've been saving up. Not healthy. Start early – start often.
- Even in firms that start well continuing feedback is a challenge.To integrate elements into culture long-term we have to keep doing the work. We have to have the discipline to continue providing feedback even as people grow in competency and move hierarchically through the organization. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt as much as it breeds laziness. Over time we believe others “know” what they need to do. That they “get” our culture and the imperatives. That we don't have to give them so much feedback because they've “been around.” Wrong. We have to give feedback over time because the longer we've been in one place the harder it is for us to separate ourselves from that environment. In a way we become merged with if you will. Feedback given continually helps us understand our impact in that environment.
Like other workplace skills the ability to curate and deliver feedback can be developed with practice. Done relentlessly, seamlessly and with care feedback can actually be an effective tool that people simply accept as part of the norm.
Not sharing feedback early and continually turns this helpful tool into a cumbersome and counterproductive one-off exercise.
Practice feedback early and often so it becomes part of your culture.
We're all hungry.