Posted on Monday 24 April 2017 by Ulster Business

Feedback is key says meade

Family businesses are on the agenda in Ulster Business this month; known for their penchant for conflict, discord, and division, many crumble under the weight of the complexity in making relationships work as well around the board table as they do around the breakfast table.  Few skills circumvent the risks better than effective feedback. 

Family business or not, giving useful feedback, according to the CIPD not only increases staff motivation but productivity too. And, nearly 60% of people who were recently surveyed by PwC, said they wanted more regular feedback. And by more regularly they meant on a weekly, and in some cases a daily basis. And if the respondents were under 30, the percentage of people who wanted feedback rose to 72%.

There is a myriad of reasons why feedback isn’t given. The most common being a fear of confrontation, people saying they are 'too busy’, or in some cases it’s just not deemed important enough to take precedent over other business priorities.

Unfortunately, while these excuses may be true and feel reasonable to the leader in question at the time, they don’t cut the mustard in businesses that genuinely care about business improvement. Why? Because feedback is useful, desired, and an incredibly impactful way of developing your team and performance levels when delivered properly. Employees will fear it less, and appreciate it more if it is delivered constructively and regularly.  And by regularly, I really do mean as frequently as daily.  Growing bodies of research tell us that employees want more feedback, and that feedback is important, so let’s look at ways in which you and your company, can turn giving feedback into a business boosting habit.

Create a Culture of Feedback

Companies with a ‘Growth Mindset’ thrive on feedback, seeing challenges, setbacks and failure as an opportunity to grow and learn personally and professionally. A person or an organisation with a fixed mindset sees feedback as combative, personal, and a slight on them as human beings.  Companies who embrace a growth mindset culture, create a culture of feedback across all levels. And I do mean all levels.

According to research conducted by Carol Dweck people feel more comfortable making mistakes in growth mindset companies.  Feeeback is used as a tool to help people grow and learn. What that means though is that everyone in the company needs to understand the best way to give and receive it, and that takes training, patience, and an attitudinal shift in the way we see feedback. 

It's all in the Delivery

All feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance. Being aware of the type of language that you are using, as well as the tone in which you deliver it, is essential if you want the message to be received in a positive way, and the receiver’s integrity to remain intact.

So instead of saying, “That last project was a disaster,” consider, “Let’s take a look at why the project didn’t meet it’s objectives, and think about ways in which we can prevent this from happening in the future.” Being careful about how you phrase what you are saying, will not only change people's perception of the feedback in question, but will take away some of the negative feelings associated with getting it.

Make the Feedback Timely

Feedback that is given in a timely manner is more impactful. Millennials, or Generation Y, (those born between 1980 – 2000), have a penchant for this type of feedback. And companies such as Deloitte, Accenture, and IBM, are listening to them. They are leading the way in employee feedback favouring a timely and targeted approach. What does that mean? It differs from company to company, but essentially its regular feedback, given in real time during and after projects, or when appropriate. No longer do employees want to  wait until their annual performance review. This model is all about ongoing, and regular feedback.

Bersin for Deloitte estimates that about 70% of multinational companies are moving towards this model because timely feedback has the greatest impact on performance and motivation.

Use Emotional Intelligence

Emotionally intelligent employees are empathetic, and can see things from the perspective of others. They are also self-aware, and have excellent social skills. These skills are essential if you want to give productive feedback. The good news here is that anyone can develop emotional intelligence with time, effort, and a will to learn and engage.

Focus on Observable Behaviours not Opinions

Focussing on how a team member can change their clearly observable behaviours is essential, especially when you are giving developmental feedback. Using a model like S.B.I. (Situation, Behaviour, Impact) to frame what you are going to say, will make the task less onerous. The technique focusses on concrete observable behaviours, and not on subjective feelings and emotions. For instance, instead of saying, “You seem to be uninterested in this project,” why not say, “Yesterday in the team meeting, you were talking during my presentation. It was distracting, and it seemed that you were uninterested in what I had to say.”

Be careful of using Email

Though it feels like the easy way out, using email to deliver feedback can be a very risky strategy. It's always best to do it face to face, in video chat, or worse case scenario over the phone. If you must deliver feedback via email, make sure you consider the tone of your email, or get someone else to have a look before you send it, because once it's sent there's no going back.

Back at the office

Here are some things that you can do today:

1.            Make a commitment to give feedback to someone once you’ve finished reading this article. Start off with affirmative feedback using the S.B.I. model, and then progress to developmental feedback over the next couple of weeks. If you make a commitment to do it regulary, it will soon become a habit.

2.            Get staff to give you anonymous feedback in your next team meeting. If they can see you can take it, it may then make it easier for them to take it from you.

3.            Show your staff how to deliver feedback using the S.B.I. model. You can then practice delivering feedback to each other using the model. Start with affirmative feedback, and once this has been mastered, move on to using it to deliver developmental feedback too.

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