The Power of Productive Feedback

by Cecilia Magnergård on January 28, 2014

In elementary school, the good kids got golden stars. In college, they were recognised on the dean’s list, but in the workplace, however, top performers are often deprived of feedback for a job well done. Although some business leaders may argue they do not have resources or time to provide their professionals with performance rewards or constructive feedback, a recent survey shows employees as well as managers are looking for more.

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Feedback is one of the most important tools you can use for growing a business, and having honest and helpful conversations about what is (and is not)  working saves a lot of tension and contributes to a more effective and engaged team. The very simplest way to get and give feedback is structured around three questions:

1. What one thing are you/they doing well?

2. What one thing would they/you like to see you do more of?

3. What one thing could you/they improve?

The beauty of this approach is not just its simplicity; it is also a way to separate the business, or the person, from the actual behaviour – a straightforward technique to deliver feedback that is balanced and constructive.

clip_image004However, it is not always this simple, sometimes deeper feedback needs to be implemented. Providing colleagues an observer’s insight into how their performance is proceeding could mean the difference between inclination and discontent. Therefore, it is of importance that business owners manage their feedback in a positive way that in turn will result in further development and growth.

To be instantaneous

Recent research shows that the adult brain learns best by being caught in action. Productive feedback requires giving it frequently, and feedback is too important to let away. Do not wait for the big successes; celebrate the small ones too, but keep in mind the importance of being sincere. Do not praise someone for just coming on time or doing his or her job – your colleagues will see right through you. Sincerity says that you mean what you say with care and respect. Say it instantaneous and mean it when you say it – independent whether it is positive or negative feedback.

To create safety

According to the neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner at Columbia University, people who receive feedback apply it only about 30 per cent of the time. Ochsner emphasises that if the person receiving feedback do not feel comfortable then it can cause the feedback to be directly unproductive. This means that if you do not have a relation with your colleague or employee that certainly allows you to say virtually anything to each other; add safety and civility into your feedback approach. It doesn’t mean that you should avoid corrective feedback, but continuously come up with a suggested solution and always be kind. The feedback will most likely not be productive if it is focused on making the other person feel foolish or bad. Confined situations, in which people know they are being assessed, are perfect for giving feedback while learning. A productive manager giving feedback constantly creates opportunities to build confidence and skills.

To be specific in observations

clip_image006It is important to state observations and not interpretations, and be specific of what you observe. Observations are what you see occur, interpretation, on the other hand, is your analysis or opinion of what you see. Discuss the observed behaviour on a concrete level instead of as a characterisation of the behaviour. Observations have far more factual and non-judgemental to it than interpretations, and people generally respond better to specific, positive direction.

About Cecilia Magnergård :

Analyst with deep knowledge in Economic Strategy, Innovation Management and Business Developmed combined with a profound interest in complex problem solving and the global financial markets. She has an BSc in economics and a Master of Science with a major in Engineering and Management specialised in Economics of Innovation and Growth from the Royal Institute of Technology.

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