Most of us have experienced the disoriented feeling of waking up in a dark and unfamiliar room – usually a hotel room – and having difficulty in finding the light switch on the wall to give us the orientation we need to get to the bathroom.
During that period of fumbling around in the dark, we walk with our arms outstretched in front of us, hoping to find some reference point. We feel confused, uncertain and a little vulnerable in these unfamiliar surroundings.
It’s the lack of feedback and any reference points upon which we can base our actions which leads to the undesirable feelings that accompany this phenomenon.
So, what is feedback?
Feedback is defined as; providing information that alerts another person to the potential or actual outcomes from a certain action or behaviour.
In the working environment, we are reliant upon the feedback from others to provide us with information which informs us whether our actions are bringing about the results which align with the desired outcomes.
The benefits of feedback
In addition to providing us direction and guidance, effective feedback has the following benefits;
- It can lead to direct improvements in effectiveness and efficiency
- It helps clarify expectations
- It leads to greater transparency
- It helps people to be more receptive to new ideas and new methods
- It helps us avoid making the same mistakes (or repeating those of others)
- It provides a proven method to further develop skills and competencies.
The historical challenges of providing feedback
Individuals may not always be open and receptive to feedback, particularly if they have had poor experiences with it in the past.
Classifying feedback as either positive or negative has proven to make the sharing of feedback less popular with individuals in the working environment. This includes a strategy adopted by many leaders and managers of attempting to ‘cushion’ any negative feedback by sandwiching it between elements of positive feedback, before delivering the killer-blow, which was anticipated – and dreaded – by the recipient from the get-go.
Moving forward with effective feedback
Recent research, endless focus groups and improved relationships between individuals and their leaders/managers, has led to more effective methods of sharing insights with individuals to enhance their performance.
- Consider whether the feedback is aiming to reinforce or re–direct the actions and/or behaviour of the recipient and declare this with the individual from the outset of the discussion
- Consider the timing of the feedback. Ideally, the individual should receive the feedback as soon as the behaviour/action has been observed, allowing them to act upon it immediately.
- Remember that if your feedback is too general, it will be difficult to apply to any effect. Specific feedback gets specific results.
- Remain objective. Your feedback should focus on facts, figures and observations, not on rumour or anecdotes. Remove personal bias.
The value of a growth mindset
The research and publication of Dr Carol Dweck’s studies on the positive effect of a Growth Mindset has allowed for some fantastic improvements into the performance of individuals and companies.
Instead of adopting a ‘know-it-all’ approach (fixed mindset), the ‘learn-it-all’ mentality of individuals who adopt a growth mindset empowers them to be much more receptive to any feedback which is provided to them.
In our goal of continuous improvement, the application and willingness to receive feedback continues to be pivotal in our personal and professional development.