Welcome back to the Culture Hacker blog series. Today, I want to talk about coaching, and more specifically, providing feedback. Feedback, by definition, is a process by which information is given to a person about the outcome of an action, process, or activity. Feedback plays a critical role in developing, retaining, and inspiring your employees. Unfortunately, only 21% of employees feel they are managed in a motivating way, and the main reason for this small demographic is because most employees feel that they are not offered useful feedback. For the health of your company culture and your team’s development, you must provide feedback to your staff on a regular basis.
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. It is imperative for managers and organizations to understand that the formal feedback process often lacks credibility and substance, which is a result of a lack of informal feedback.
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, usually in operation. Novelist John Le Carre once wrote, “The desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” To avoid this narrow perspective, get out of your office and into the operation and 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 their people to succeed. You must enable and empower your staff so that your coaching can be useful.
Feedback must be consistent, meaning informal feedback happens all the time, not just when you feel like it. As millennial workers are nearing 50% of the workforce, it’s crucial 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. Research suggests that 42% of millennials want feedback every week; however, only 19% report that they receive meaningful feedback on a regular basis. You don’t have to move mountains to start providing consistent, informal feedback—and if it’s a need for nearly half of your staff, it needs to become your priority.
Ensure your feedback is balanced. Don’t just give feedback for improvement. You need to praise your team when they do something right. A Gallup survey found that 67% of employees who received praise and positive feedback were fully engaged in their work, as opposed to only 31% of staff whose managers exclusively focused on the negative.
Do not deliver a lecture. Staff tune out managers when all they do is give a speech. The purpose of feedback is to stimulate the brain and examine performance, so managers need to stop lecturing and start asking more questions, thus putting the responsibility for assessing their performance on the employee. Author and CEO of Box of Crayons, Michael Bungay Stanier, stated, “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 to ask employees so they can analyze their performance are:
- Did you realize you did this?
- How do you think you affected your customer?
- What could you do better in the future?
Remember, when giving informal feedback, explain the reason for the feedback and 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 organization, you not only positively impact the performance and attitude of your staff in the moment, but you also build a great foundation for a more meaningful feedback system.