For this final post of 2017, I want to talk about the ‘F’ word in leadership. Feedback. I have spent my time in the past four weeks with global brands, organisations that work in the public sector, the third sector and also with SMEs and much of our discussions have landed here. Why is it so hard to give great feedback? Most of us are filled with dread when we hear the expression “I’d like to give you some feedback” because we believe ‘oh, this won’t be good.’ How have we got to such a place? What is it that we’re so afraid of? My view is that because it is so heavily associated with bad news (and we all know how much of that there is in the world), it’s either avoided or offered in such a way that either the person on the receiving end doesn’t ‘get it’, and/or is left with feelings of hurt, disappointment and resentment. Feedback should be a rhythm of our communication that is as natural, regular, sincere and effective as asking great questions and listening deeply. As you read this, how many of you are thinking as a professional that you are simply replete with the amount of positive, effective feedback you’ve received in your role? In fact, if you receive one more piece of positive feedback then quite frankly, you will burst?
Exactly. I thought not.
So, here’s my question: why would you think that your teams feel any different?
Praise is great – but that’s not feedback. Appreciation is lovely – but that’s not feedback either. Great feedback should leave the receiver in no doubt of the specific behaviour that was observed, the impact of it and what you want them to either continue to do (or consider doing differently). If our feedback is critical or developmental, then it should leave the receiver of it feeling helped and not harmed. My heartfelt belief is that we should investigate, appreciate and explore success with far greater curiosity than we do failure. All too often what I see is a ferocious examination of failure and a cursory glance at success with a simple ‘pat on the back’ to do yet more. Of course, there are many brilliant models or frameworks for feedback, all of which are just terrific. I use AID (Action, Impact, Desired Outcome), LCS (Likes, Concerns, Suggestions), EEC (Example, Effect, Change/Continue) and, of course, there are many others that work just as well.
Leaders who have Executive Presence use the ‘F’ word in leadership a lot. Feedback is a habit of their leadership and their communication. That’s how they encourage, inspire and enthuse those around them to develop themselves and deliver great performance. So, who in your team (whether they are a direct report or a colleague in your horizontal leadership group) is overdue feedback? And why not focus on something positive? Why not make your gift this festive season one of thoughtful, clear, positive feedback that engages, enthuses and delights those around you?