Feedback as a leadership tool is vastly underutilized. When I first got into the coaching profession, it became evident that the people I learned the most from in my life, were leaders and coaches who understood how to give exceptional feedback. I wouldn’t have been conscious of that until I needed to become masterful at feedback in order to coach high performers to even higher performance.
As I observed the impact of different types of feedback on performance and learned what was highly effective and what wasn’t, it shifted my confidence, impact and results with clients significantly.
As humans, the only way we get better is through feedback. Toddlers touch a hot surface and learn to be more discerning about what they touch. Early in our careers, we may hold back in speaking up and learn that other people get promoted or get to work on the interesting projects. As we step into leading a team, we learn that not clearly communicating expectations lead to failure to achieve results, both ours and the teams.
Look at any high-performing athlete, especially those who have sustained excellence through time and you will find they have a whole team of people around them who are consistently giving them feedback.
What is feedback?
Feedback is literally a communication tool that engages you and someone else or a group in the process of growth or getting better. We call this performance feedback.
Ultimately, the lens through which you view feedback will impact how much you give, how you give it and ultimately how effective you are as a leader. Approaching feedback with a growth mindset will yield better results. As Carol Dweck, author of Mindset says:
“In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”
As a leader, you create an opportunity for someone to improve and take ownership for their development. It is a development conversation. It is not just about telling someone what to do. Feedback is an art and science. You tap into your sense of what will help people perform better and you learn to deliver feedback intentionally to get results. Impactful feedback requires your focused attention and will yield better results.
As you become more masterful, you will help others grow into their full potential, build confidence, help them skill up, be their best and achieve at a higher level. Every leader in the room puts their hand up when asked do you want these things for your people. Not every leader is willing to do what it takes to master feedback, it’s a choice.
Here are some guiding principles that can help you develop your mastery:
Be Intentional: People get better through feedback. Otherwise, how do they know what to do better, more of, less of or differently? Create a mini-strategy chart that lists your team members, where you want to help them grow and two things you will focus your feedback on over the next 30 days.
Be Conscious: Practice giving feedback in different ways. Notice the impact. Did it result in awareness, behaviour change, more trust, a willingness to risk? Any and all of these are indicators of success. As a leader, your job is to learn how to give high-quality feedback that has impact.
Be Timely: Give feedback as close to the time of when the person was struggling or when they nailed it. The closer to the actual performance the better. Both for reinforcement/recognition feedback and corrective feedback. It engages them in the emotion of the moment. Remember with corrective feedback, waiting to give it, means they will continue to struggle. Set your people up for success, be timely.
Be Growth Focused: People need more recognition and reinforcement feedback to move towards a goal or to higher performance than they need corrective feedback. They need both AND learning to give feedback that moves them towards success is more highly motivating.
“There are two things people want more than sex and money… recognition and praise.”
– Mary Kay Ash, Mary Kay Cosmetics