Feedback is a Gift

MSME ARTICLE #5/2017 : OCTOBER 17th 2017

Leaders in organisations apire their teams to be high performing ones. This happens when the team members trust one other, engage in conflict around ideas that are generated, are committed to take decisions to move forward and hold one another accountable. Finally, all of these habits and behaviours will enable them to stay focussed and achieve collective results.

The above description is not commonly seen in organisations. Hence leaders struggle with issues such as building trust, getting commitment, resolving conflicts, holding them accountable and gaining excellent performance and results.

One common tool that leaders can use to build their team towards becoming a high performing one is the Feedback Tool. When they use it, then Feedback becomes a gift!
Some common scenarios include;
1.When the leader notices that one of his team member is displaying a behaviour that is exemplerary. Feedback of this nature is a motivating factor to encourge similar behaviour patterns among the other team members.
2.When the leader notices behavior that is less desirable and wants the team member to rescind that behavior for the good of the whole team.
3.When the leader observes the team is going out of alignment with respect to the team’s contributions towards the organizational goal.
4.When the leader wants a team member to improve an areas of weakness or develop in a specific area for example, his temper towards his teammates.

Some best practices to ensure feedback is successful are:-
1.seek permission before giving feedback
2.ensure that the receiver is ready (right frame of mind)
3.start by validating something good
4.make receiver feel cared for/valued
5.do it early so that ‘bad’ behavior can be arrested early
6.intention is not to create shame rather alignment
7.remove bias and judgement by sticking to data/facts

Let me share with you two cases when Feedback is a gift.

Case #1:
One of the managers that I coached shared that one of her values was building relationships with friends, team members and also family. Hence providing feedback was seen not as a ‘gift’, rather as a threat to her. This was because she had a fear that if she provided feedback to her team, and the team member could not receive it, what if he refused to communicate with her after the feedback session. She said that she would find it extremely difficult to live with this outcome. This prevented her from providing feedback. I coached her around her ‘false’ belief and enabled her to see the power of providing feedback in building a high-performing team. She agreed to try it out with her new ‘empowering’ belief. It was marvelous. The team members was so happy to be shown what they were doing right, what needed to be improved and how they could achieve the group contribution towards the organization.

Case #2:
One of the managers that I coached shared that being an Asian, providing feedback was difficult for her as it was not part of her culture. In her mental model, feedback is always seen as a negative act, where the leader finds faults in the team, almost acting as a ‘parent’ reprimanding a child. After learning about the S-B-I feedback tool (situation-behavior-impact) and its objectivity, she willingly tried in out on her team members. The impact it created was amazing. The team shared that they did not receive any feedback from her for the past two years. The trust levels among the members were extremely low. None of the members were willing to share differences in opinions; rather they embraced the unhealthy ‘group-think’ mode of decision-making. Commitment among the members was hinged on ‘fear of being caught’ rather than the healthy collaborative spirit of working towards a group outcome.

The feedback tool became a gift from the leader to her team because she was open and keen to try it out and welcome the impact. To her surprise, this was what her team was waiting for her to do. They were seeking her continuous communication to guide them if they were on-track or otherwise. They welcomed her intervention and embraced the feedback gift!

Some key learnings from these two cases were;
Feedback is a Gift only when the leader wants to create high-performing teams. The leader shows that he cares sufficiently for his team, he makes the effort to praise them when something is done well, makes the effort to share areas where development is needed as well as which behaviors need to be arrested early.

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