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In last month's Management In Real Life, we discussed the first facet of feedback: underlying intent. In that article I covered hidden agendas and subtle "gotcha" messages embedded in communications that often result in sly verbal slaps across the face to recipients.
Hopefully, the message was clear that being honest with ourselves about our underlying intent, and making sure that intent supports service and positive outcomes, can open our eyes to better ways of providing feedback that stands a better chance of being heard and getting useful results.
In this article, let's talk about the second facet of feedback: having a clear purpose. Once you establish that you sincerely want to put out the effort to help someone, how your feedback supports it, or not, becomes a whole lot clearer. Here's how it works.
Think about the last ball game you watched. Maybe it was the NCAA Championship. How many statistics flashed across the screen in just the first few minutes of the game? Athletes get scads of data that track their performance game-by-game and play-by-play. Why? It's not just for the benefit of the fans. It also tells players what's working and what's not so they can adjust their game.
Two Sides of Feedback
Positive feedback can do the same for employees when you let them know what it is they're doing that's working and encouraging them to keep doing it. This isn't about insincere attaboys or generic comments like "Thank you for working hard today." We're talking about details that help people understand how what they do contributes to team or business unit success.
To illustrate, let's squeeze ourselves into the shoes of the other person. If I'm the person getting the feedback, here's some of the feedback I want from my boss. Post my team and business unit production results. Use metrics or other details to tell me specifically how I'm performing. Show me how something I'm doing is helping others in the organization. You might compliment my initiative, innovation, new ideas, or risk taking and tell me how it improved results.
With negative feedback, the sports analogy works, as well. Negative feedback doesn't have to be negative to be effective. Like the athlete, it just needs to give the recipient the facts or the numbers -- what's working and what's not versus what's required -- and where possible, provide support so people can make the right changes.
Jumping into those shoes again, here's what's useful to me -- the person on the other end of the feedback. If I'm not producing, provide me with relevant context. Show me how much I'm doing compared to what the business needs to cover costs or be profitable. If you want my team to be more committed to team goals, make my team members and me more aware of them. Give us access to current goals and actual results. Support us when we want to change how we're working together to achieve goals so we can be accountable. And make it clear what happens when we drop the ball as well as when we hit a home run.
So, to get better results from your feedback, first, get clear on your underlying intent -- what you really want to communicate.
Second, establish a clear purpose for your feedback consistent with your intent. Figure out the best way to provide the feedback to accomplish the purpose and improve performance.
Next, make sure you deliver the message in a way that gets heard and acted upon. That's what we'll discuss in the next article.
Trying it on for fit:
When deciding on Purpose, begin with the best outcome you can think of that could result from good feedback and decide what purpose would best support it. Would the purpose be for correction, learning, compliance, or commitment?
Try developing several purposes and related feedback messages and rate them from least effective to most effective in accomplishing the outcome. For example, say you have an employee who knows a project is due the first of next week, but leaves early on Friday without having project details finalized and the report ready. You're left to pick up the pieces over the weekend. In this scenario, what will be the purpose of your feedback based on the best possible result? You could make the conversation about correcting what the employee did wrong and focus on the written warning you're placing in her personnel file. You could try a learning approach by teaching him how the project fits into the bigger picture, why his timely contribution is important, and how to manage his priorities better. You might tell the employee that she should comply with your expectations and define them for her along with consequences for non-compliance. Or, you could invite him to commit to greater accountability for the project.
Each purpose will likely create a different feedback conversation and result. Note the differences between each and decide how you might apply what you learn to future feedback opportunities.
For information on purchasing reprints of this article, contact sales. Copyright 2013 CyberTech, Inc.
Dear Sir, Nice try, Sir. Always feed back is a viable solution, but still not answering to some comments, also to my first part of your article comments. I hope you Sir, to not consider them as negative and against development of society. I will reiterate them, down billow COMMENTS I. Dear Sir, I am appreciating very much your article, but, always are some but: What about to: 1. be proud and respectful to be member of a good team? 2. develop yourself work practices and habits to status of art being into that team? 3. to be so well trained that your error to be 10 to minus 3 or minus 4, meaning an military error rate?
And beside of these, to be convinced that your action is with large social benefits and the democratic society worth this, not only how much money I gain if I do this? On the other world, a society based on 10 God orders in much more worth full than a society based on 10 God orders and also on the 10 opposite God orders, specially due to money need, I may say terrorism? To make maximum profit from terrorism? So, better society would be beneficial for work ideals and quality and we can not underestimate the above.
SUGGESTION: FIRST QUESTION TO BE: DO YOU FOLLOW ONLY 10 ORDERS OF GOD? DO YOU,SIR? With deep respect and consideration, Constantin ROBITU
Len Gould 6.23.11
Constantin raises an interesting issue. Has the author fully addressed the issue of team motivation? Did the person who left on Friday with the project undone think "I don't care if another rich investors get a bit richer, I have an ailing child in the hospital I need to care for, and the company's just dropped my medical benifit plan." or something similar? Are the company's corporate goals provably aligned with the life-goals of their employees, especially the younger brighter ones?
The constant mantra being hammered into employees is "profits must grow!!". The employees may ask "Why? When its salaries and benefits are shrinking, its market shrinking, its product deteriorating, shouldn't profits be expected to suffer a bit also?"
Malcolm Rawlingson 6.24.11
A fascinating discussion.
It seems to me that everyone, be they investors, shareholders, employees or managers want more not less. Employees want more benefits, better working conditions, better pay, better pensions. Investors want bigger profits and better rates of return on their money, managers want better performance from their staff and better productivity so they can earn bigger bonuses and, last but not least shareholders want bigger dividends and higher stock prices. There is only ONE way to ensure all of that is possible and that is to bake a bigger cake.
Unfortunately most unions and management battle each other for a bigger share of the same cake. If someone gains the other loses and there is no practical way to rationalize all of these competing interests if the cake is the same size. The only way for everyone to have better anything is for the size of the cake to get bigger.
That is precisely the problem. No-one appears to want to work to make the cake bigger.
To make bigger cakes needs more investment money to buy more materials, better baking practices and equipment to make the cake baking more efficient, better managers to manage the baking process and employees dedicated to baking the best cake they can possibly make and selling it to willing cake consumers.
I read a recent North American study that indicates that one out of every two employees is disengaged from their work (read could not care less about the job) and is looking to go else where.
That hardly bodes well for North America to make bigger and better cakes now does it. Sadly for the Western economies we have developed an "entitlement mentality" that has many people convinced that you can get what you want without working hard or producing more or better products. Just ask for more money and carry on doing what you were doing before. Better salaries, benefits and pensions do not come out of thin air and they certainly do not come from doing as little as possible. They come from the work of people and they come from putting capital to work efficiently.
Unless we do both investing and working a whole lot better everyone's "entitlements" to good pensions, good investment returns, good wages and good health care will disappear as we collectively squander what previous generations have worked so hard for.
Many members of the modern work force appear to believe that working hard at ones job - whatever it is - is somehow a mugs game. Similarly (and much more troubling) is that many modern day investors think that making a fast buck is preferable to investing for the long term to build businesses.
Both are completely wrong and the result of this collective stupidity (aided and abetted by politicians who promise what cannot be afforded) can only be increased borrowing to pay for the entitlements mentality.
Sooner or later the creditors (China, Saudi Arabia, India) will come calling and all will find out soon enough what they are really entitled to for a lifetime of laziness.
The American and Canadian dreams are on life support with no doctor in sight.
Malcolm Rawlingson 6.24.11
Absolutely right on the money Len,
Why should shareholders have any expectation of making more when the products are crap and the market is shrinking. Generally those problems are mirrored in the stock price and shareholders do indeed take a beating on the stock price if companies perform badly. Investors are not obligated to invest in any business and likewise employees are not forced to work for their employers. They can both leave any time.
Unfortunately employees rarely get to communicate to shareholders directly and it is the CEO's job to communicate to employees and shareholders. Frequently that communication could be a whole lot better.
I am a supporter of more employees becoming investors in the companies that employ them. That way employees get to see the results of poor and good performance in a very direct way. Indeed as the number of employees shrinks as a result of automation and intelligent computers, employees will have no other option than to become investors as it will be the only way left to make a living.
Very good discussion.
Len Gould 6.28.11
Not sure I agree Malcolm. Considering that about 15% of a corporations gross sales normally goes to employee and staff earnings and benefits, another 15% to the lenders and shareholders, and the remainder to input products and materials, if the employees invested say 5% of their income each year in shares it would take them 20 years to gain 15% of the company's shares. Problem is, very few employment careers involve remaining at the same company for 20 years, so you still wind up with the shares held by non-employees.
Malcolm Rawlingson 6.28.11
A couple of further thoughts on this Len. I think most employees would stay with a company for much longer if they were owners and had a vested interest in the success of the Corporation. I worked for a major power company for 28 years and would have been delighted to be offered the opportunity for Corporate ownership.
I know Westjet the Canadian Airline has exactly this philosophy and I fly with them all the time because the service is first rate and the employees top notch....a stark contrast to Air Canada where it always seems like the people had to be dragged out of their beds to work. I do not know what structure Westjet has set up for Corporate ownership by employees but it sure seems to be making a difference.
With most Corporations abandoning their pension plans and very few offering any form of ownership it is no surprise that employees have no attachment or interest in the Companies that employ them other than a pay cheque.
As I have noted in other posts i think the days of "the job" are numbered in our society as intelligent machines take over more and more of the work of humans. One of the reasons for the so-called "jobless recoveries" from recent recessions is in part due to automation so I see a day in the not too distant future when the job as we know it no longer exists. We all need to become investors since the notion of employment will be a thing of the past and an employee a rare breed indeed. Malcolm