Welcome back to our Culture Hacker series of Blogs. Today, I want to talk about coaching, and more specifically, feedback. For the health of your company culture and development of your people, a critical company behavior must be to provide feedback to your staff on a regular basis. Feedback, by definition, is a process by which information is given to a person about the outcome of an action, process, or activity.
In your organization, there are two types of feedback you should care about—informal and formal. Informal feedback is the everyday casual conversation regarding the work being done. Formal feedback is a more organized and documented communication, most typically seen in annual reviews, recognition programs, or disciplinary processes. What is most critical for managers and organizations to understand is that the reason our formal feedback mechanisms often lack credibility and substance is because there is no informal feedback happening.
We will discuss the formal feedback mechanisms in upcoming blogs, but for now, let’s consider how to give effective informal feedback. For informal feedback to positively affect the performance and mindset of your people, it must have the following elements.
For feedback to be timely, it must happen right after the activity or behavior occurred. This also means it happens in the operation or business. Novelist John Le Carre once wrote, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” To avoid this narrow perspective, get out of your offices and into the operation so you can see your people at work, thereby allowing you to give feedback in the moment.
It is critical to ensure feedback is fair and considerate of the circumstances in which the behavior occurs. Managers need to stop telling people how to get better when they can’t provide enough staffing, training, tools, or information for staff to perform at their best.
Feedback must also be consistent, meaning informal feedback happens all the time, not just when you feel like it. As we’re seeing the portion of young Millennial workers nearing 50% of the workforce, it’s critical to understand that their engagement largely depends on the feedback they’re receiving. Millennials want to be seen and heard and want to know that their contributions are not going unnoticed. According to a recent study, 42% of Millennials want feedback every week. It doesn’t take moving mountains to make it happen – and if it’s a need for nearly half of your staff, it had better become your priority in providing feedback consistently.
Ensure the feedback you give is balanced. Don’t just give feedback for improvement. We need to be active in telling our staff when they do something right. A recent Gallup survey found that 67% of staff who received praise and positive feedback were fully engaged in their work, as opposed to only 31% of staff whose managers only focused on the negative. That is a huge deal.
Finally, when giving feedback, do not deliver a lecture. Too many managers are blocked out mentally by their staff because all they do is lecture their people. The purpose of feedback is to stimulate the brain and improvements in performance so managers need to stop lecturing and start asking more questions, putting the responsibility for assessing their performance with the employee. In a Culture Hacker podcast episode, author and CEO of Box of Crayons, Michael Bungay Stanier, stated that “The quality of the questions is key to an important coaching session. The best coaching question in the world is ‘and what else?’ This helps the leader stay curious longer and move to action and advice slower.” Some of my other favorite questions include:
- Did you realize you did this?
- How do you think you impacted your customer?
- What could you do better?
Remember when giving informal feedback to always explain the reason for the feedback and to thank your staff at the end. The conversation might sound something like this:
“John, we have been talking a lot about delivering great service. I was just listening to your interaction with that customer and your tone and facial expressions were not friendly. Did you realize this? What sort of impact do you think you had on that customer? What could you do better in the future? Thank you for making this a priority.”
By establishing effective informal feedback in your business, you not only positively impact the performance and attitude of your staff in the moment, but you also establish a great foundation for a more meaningful formal feedback system.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out my book, Culture Hacker, available now.