Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Feedback, please!

Feedback is essential in developing successful interpersonal relationships, groups and organisational cultures. To give and receive feedback are significant skills in building effective collaboration in organisations.

Feedback is probably one of the words I quite often bump into when working with people. Usually, when discussing typical organisational challenges, I hear a lot of complain about not getting enough feedback or that it is mostly negative. In some cases the feedback culture has developed into something where it’s an "accepted" norm to be rude – just blurting out words that are destructive rather than constructive. And we can guess, it's not a very happy place to work.

I’ve been using a couple of simple principles in my workshops where for example people need to give feedback to one another concerning their presentation skills. I usually give the following ”guidelines”:

  1. Feedback is a gift to the other person. What kind of a gift do you want to give? What kind of feedback would be the most useful?
  2. Focus on the positive. What are the obvious strengths of the other person? What could be highlighted even more? Give concrete examples what and how the other person did really well and what kind of impact it had.
  3. In order to learn, we also need to hear about those things we could develop. Give this feedback in a constructive way, and only if you can provide concrete examples to explain your point, and ideas what and how to do some things differently. If you cannot provide these points it’s better to keep your mouth shut.

I quite like the idea of thinking feedback as a gift, something precious and useful to give. A few years ago I had the privilege to interview Marcial Losada, and he said something that got stuck with me. We were talking about positive psychology and his model for measuring the quality of team communication, and he said: ”feedback doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to the other person”.

If only we remembered this idea in our encounters with other people. Feedback is not something we learn and exercise only in nice workshops or trainings. It’s what we should be learning everyday when responding to customer service or ordinary things on our way to work.

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