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In Economic Recovery, Focus on Feedback

by Terry L. Comp and Larry B. Comp in General and Miscellaneous


As the country’s economic recovery takes hold and corporate America works to regain a state of equilibrium, there’s a lot to do inside our organizations to be ready for the upturn in years to come.  There’s no better time than now to work on reinforcing your organizational culture of accountability by improving the feedback and coaching skills of your leaders.  When people believe that they are personally responsible for their own performance, and receive good, objective information about how they’re doing, it’s amazing what can be accomplished. Clearly, the lack of constructive feedback accounts for many of the ongoing performance failures that many managers would like to lay at the feet of the employees who simply aren’t doing what is expected of them. In truth, the performance disappointments are a shared responsibility, and leaders are equally accountable for any disheartening results. 

Feedback Satisfies a Basic Human Need

 

Since personal and organizational performance matters more than ever, it is vitally important to have leaders who have well-developed coaching and feedback skills.  People naturally WANT to know what is expected and how they are measuring up to those expectations.  Establishing a pattern of honest, open communication early on is the best way to ensure that the “need to know” is satisfied, and team members get help in correcting minor problems or inefficiencies before they become habits. 

 

Also, after providing constructive feedback in an effective manner, you as the leader have an important opportunity to observe how the individual responds.  Is she/he able to hear and process the information in the spirit it was intended, and turn a defeat into a victory?  Is the individual apt to use a mistake or near-miss as an opportunity to grow to new heights?  As author and performance expert Jerry Fletcher states, “One thing that distinguishes high performers, is that they take responsibility for their lives.  If things aren’t going well, they do something about it. “

 

Giving and receiving feedback is a learned skill, and company productivity could be impacted quite positively if we would teach it.  Here are some simple, practical ideas to keep in mind as you work to improve coaching and feedback within your organization: 

  • Before giving feedback, take a few moments to reflect on your own motives for providing counsel to your employee. In other words, are you motivated to help this individual to realize her/his personal and professional development goals?  As a leader, ask yourself if your intentions are in the best interest of the team member.  Assuming the answer is yes, your sincerity will go a long way toward insuring that the feedback is received in the spirit it was intended.  Even if the message is hard to hear, your legitimate desire to help the individual learn and grow will shine through. 

  • Ask permission to give your employee some input---the sharing of some information and observations.  If you ask if the employee wants to hear the feedback, you are demonstrating respect and common courtesy.  Your team member will be much more likely to listen and respond to your comments, whether positive or negative. 

  • When coaching your team member, give specific, not general feedback.  “Great job, Ben” is nice, but not nearly as meaningful as:  “Your preparation for that presentation was first class, Ben.  You anticipated every possible concern that the customer might have, and it really paid off today.”  Even when the feedback is negative, the team member needs to hear a very specific description of the behavior or performance that you think needs to change.  “Ben, seems that the presentation this morning didn’t go as we might have hoped.  I think that it would have been much more convincing if you had anticipated the customer’s concern about timing of our implementation, and come up with some reasonable milestones for each step of the project.  What do you think?”  If you care enough to provide coaching feedback, give the time and attention needed to frame a thoughtful, detailed assessment, not a perfunctory pat on the back or slap on the hand. 

  • Think of providing performance feedback as having a regular, ongoing conversation with your team member.   In other words, coaching feedback should be natural, and a part of an authentic relationship of respect between the two of you.  Once you have developed the habit of making that ongoing conversation a priority, it won’t be awkward and uncomfortable to provide feedback, whether it is positive or negative.  Also, it’s a great idea to occasionally turn the tables and ask your team members for their feedback.  For example:  “How did you think that team-building session went?  What suggestions do you have for me to improve the meeting next time?  Do you think the new team members understood what I’m asking for?”  The reality is that you are establishing or reinforcing a team culture where everyone should always be working to improve his/her personal performance.  You can best signal that cultural value by striving to improve your own performance, as well. 

Conclusion

 

In times like these, it’s more important than ever to demonstrate that you value performance and will go to great lengths to clear the path for individuals to achieve   their highest potential, both personally and professionally.  Gone are the days when managers can “wimp out” simply because a conversation might involve some uncomfortable moments.  Authentic leaders genuinely care about the individual’s success, and will do the hard work of creating a trusting relationship with the team member.  If the relationship is a solid one, you will not think twice about honestly and thoughtfully discussing the team member’s strengths and weaknesses. 

People are never able to perform at the highest level working in a vacuum.  Constructive feedback, carefully and thoughtfully delivered, is an invaluable tool for growth and development.  Both leaders and followers need it and deserve it.  The current period of economic recovery offers an important opportunity to assess our coaching and feedback effectiveness, and make some changes.  We contend that well-equipped leaders and an authentic culture of accountability will be an important competitive advantage when economic recovery is complete and new opportunities present themselves.    



Terry Comp and Larry Comp are Principals with LTC Performance Strategies, Inc., a prominent performance development and total compensation solutions practice located in Valencia, California. They have been guest speakers at several Forums throughout California.


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