The word “feedback” originated in engineering and describes an output signal routed back into the system to help it self-regulate. A very immediate and useful contribution.In the world of sport, the coach gives similarly immediate and descriptive feedback to help his charge make incremental changes on the way to achieving peak performance. Again, useful.
With these contexts in mind, it always seems such a nonsense that in the world of work, we might wait 6 months or even a year to deliver feedback on performance.
Of course, you don’t do that. Right? And you don’t experience that. Right?
Just in case: here are some thoughts to amplify the feedback loop, in between those regular stake-in-the-ground performance reviews.
Giving The Feedback
Feedback in the moment (whatever it may be) is powerful stuff. It creates a strong sense of awareness and responsibility; and gives useful context to our learning.
Take a leaf out of Ken Blanchard’s “One Minute Manager” approach and adopt some simple rules:
- Do it now. No reason to wait. And the longer you leave it, the less useful the feedback will be.
- Be specific. What did you like, specifically? What, specifically, would you like to see more of in future?
- Make it heartfelt. Whatever the feedback, it must be sincere. You might also like to include how it left you feeling. For the receiver to really understand your perspective.
Try some in-the-moment feedback this week. You’ll delight your team and improve the performance.
Getting The Feedback
Among the myriad problems with feedback are: no one wants to hear it; and no one wants to give it. But feedback can be such a gift. So when we’re on the receiving end; when someone has actually taken the time, thought and courage to share genuine feedback, there really is only one thing to say:
Anything else will distort the incoming message. And we want to hear that message, because that’s where learning and improvement reside.
And a quick tip, if you didn’t like the message: Write it out in your own words and feelings on a separate piece of paper. Stick it in a drawer and come back to it in a few days. Then take the decision to keep or discard. I often find that what was once raw and hard to hear, has transformed into something tangible and actionable.
Creating Your Own Feedback Loop
And in the absence of anyone else, why not practise generating your own feedback loop?
The thinking trick here is not to try and be more or less “X”. Instead, simply notice how “X” you’re being right now. Give it a rating on a scale of 1 – 10. Because just noticing will setup your own feedback loop. A signal back into your system that allows you to learn and adjust.
So don’t try and be more productive. Just rate your productivity. Don’t try and be more concise in your communications. Just rate the conciseness of your communication. Don’t try and be more confident. Just rate your confidence. And let your own system make the incremental adjustments, as you continue to work through your day.
(Trust me: it’s an interesting experiment. Give it a go. And if it’s too much of a stretch to try it at work: try it at the golf range or in your Pilates class!)
The Focus of Feedback
Feedback is always going to be a tricky subject. But as long as we keep awareness, responsibility, learning and improvement in mind, it’s always going to serve. And all the more so when it’s little and often.