The Power of Feedback
Most people in the workplace suffer from a lack of performance feedback. At Full Circle Feedback, we call this condition the "Feedback Famine" and we believe it is rife in many organisations. The Feedback Famine occurs even in small organisations and in teams. It also occurs at all levels of an organisation.
What do we mean by the Feedback Famine?
The Feedback Famine is a vacuum that occurs when people do not receive enough information about their performance. We are not talking about formal performance feedback but ongoing, regular and informal feedback. It is timely, specific and may help the individual receiving feedback relate to:
- Whether or not they are achieving their goals
- What they are supposed to achieve in their role, i.e. why their role exists
- What they are currently doing well and what areas require improvement
- How they are impacting on others in the workplace
At Full Circle Feedback, we are most concerned with "how individuals affect others in the workplace" as 360 degree feedback is best at assisting people in understanding how others perceive them behaving at work. Modern organisations recognise the importance of how people achieve their goals, not just what they achieve. No one wants to work with a tyrant or a pushover – people have the right to expect that they will be treated with respect and supported to achieve their goals.
Why is Feedback Important?
Feedback is the cheapest, most powerful, yet, most underused management tool that we have at our disposal. Feedback is powerful as it helps people get on track; it serves as a guide to assist people in knowing how they and others perceive their performance.
Feedback can also be very motivating and energising. It has strong links to employee satisfaction and productivity. People like to feel involved and identified with their organisation. Feedback can help achieve that state.
We have observed after working with hundreds of managers in all kinds of organisations that the most effective leaders have good antennae – they understand the impact that their behaviour has on others. They subscribe to the time-honoured maxim – First, know thyself! We do not have to agree with people's perceptions, but it is important to be aware of them. It is useful information that can inform our decisions and strategies.
Working without feedback is similar to setting out an important journey minus a map or signposts. You may have a great sense of direction, but this may not be sufficient to keep you on track. When people receive little feedback, they tend to either be overly self-critical or self-congratulatory. This is because they are relying upon events rather than specific feedback to measure their performance and impact. For example, Jane's manager had not ever told her that he found her too inclined to agree with him. It was not until the third time that she had been overlooked for a promotion that her manager eventually told her that he felt she lacked decisiveness and was not assertive enough to be a senior manager. Jane was left wondering why she had not been given this feedback during a three year period. Unless she had asked for verbal feedback, the only feedback she would have received indirectly was the fact that she was being overlooked.
It is very difficult to be very self-aware without feedback from others. Self-awareness and monitoring provide a good platform, but feedback from others informs us in ways that enrich our self-knowledge. We no longer need to waste energy on explaining our behaviour, and people do not waste energy on trying to predict our behaviour. It's called open communication!
How Feedback Helps
Feedback helps people find answers to these vital questions:
- Why does my role exist?
- What am I supposed to achieve?
- How is my performance tracking?
- What is the best use of my time?
- How do I influence others?
- What is the quality of my relationships with my manager, team members and colleagues?
Feedback is the information we all need to be truly effective in the workplace. In fact the most effective leaders actively seek feedback to enhance their performance. These leaders intuitively recognise the power of feedback.