The Big Miss

I’m writing this week’s blog on the patio of my Airbnb apartment in Greece – my last day in Greece before traveling on to Iceland tomorrow for a couple of days before heading back to the United States. This past week I spoke several times for the INPACT EMEA & CSA Conference on various leadership topics, including building, engaging and empowering your team. This included a breakout session on building a culture of feedback in your organization, and the session opened my eyes even further to the true power of feedback – and this is our big miss!

I have yet to meet an organization or leader who believes that their organization does a great job in providing timely, relevant and high quality feedback to their team members. In fact, the most often stated response to the question (How do you do with feedback?) is “We could do a lot better” – and many say they are terrible at providing feedback. And the reason for these feedback shortfalls is always the same – “too busy” or “don’t make time for it.” This is the big miss!

First, let’s get clear on what feedback is and what it’s not. Feedback is not an annual review – those types of interactions are human relations processes that provide (at best) a general overview and summary of a person’s performance during the year—a snapshot. They rarely provide robust, helpful and encouraging feedback to your employee. If you had a culture of feedback in your organization, the annual review would simply summarize what the team member had already heard throughout the year and confirm what they already knew about their track, progress and performance.

As for what feedback is, it’s high-quality, specific and relevant input on a team member’s performance every day – the small things, not big generalizations. It’s also both positive and constructive feedback. If you ask any team member what they expect when they hear the word “feedback,” they will tell you that they expect to hear what they messed up or what they have to improve. That’s a falsity about feedback that leaders and managers have created by only giving negative (or even destructive) feedback. Feedback is one person’s opinion of another person’s actions (or inactions) or thinking, and it’s designed to be encouraging (positive), helpful (constructive) and supportive. That’s not the reality in our corporate cultures today, but it can be if you’re willing to embrace the power of feedback by actually giving it.

During last week’s feedback session, I asked the group to tell me the value and benefits of providing consistent feedback to their team members, and this is their list:

  • Improved team and performance
  • Team members get experience
  • Positive change and improved outcomes
  • Team member and team growth
  • Team and individual motivation
  • Leadership, team transparency and trust building
  • Improved communication

Finally, I asked them what message is communicated to team members when you take time to notice them (and their performance) and to provide quality positive and constructive feedback. Their answer, “I care about you and your future.” Wow!

This is a powerful list of positive impacts that flow from an investment in feedback and in your people. Feedback IS an investment in your people, and it’s one well worth making. When you fail to take the time to provide feedback, it’s A Big Miss!

Times may have changed. My father’s generation was raised and managed with a mindset of “no news is good news.” If you’re not getting chewed out, you’re doing well. I think my generation was led and managed the same way, and it worked (mostly). I also now know that the encouragement and uplifting positive feedback that I get from clients, friends and mentors has inspired me to a whole other level of impact in my work and my business. And with this change of times, it’s time for a leadership shift to a firm and actionized commitment to investing time and thought in the people that matter through the gift of feedback. Indeed, feedback is a gift!

What are your excuses for not providing feedback to the people that you say matter? To the team members that you lead. To the team members that are your peers (yes, team members can provide feedback to each other). To your friends and family members. Positive feedback is affirming, uplifting and can be life-altering. Constructive feedback can also be affirming, encouraging and essential for helping someone to grow. It’s time to turn the big miss into the Big Gift of feedback.

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