Feedback: a purposeful act of appreciation

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I started writing this post a fair few weeks ago in response to Helen’s (aka. @WildFigSolns) call for people to share their thoughts on why feedback doesn’t happen more often. But other things got in the way and in the interim a whole host of wonderful posts have been shared which you can find at the hashtag #feedbackcarnival. As a result I’ve happily scrapped my draft as other bloggers have much more eloquently captured what I was thinking.

For me, feedback is maligned because of how it’s been formalised in so many organisations. When it’s done at best once or twice a year and intimately linked to performance appraisal rather than valued as a living, breathing dialogue then feedback is robbed of much of its potential.

It’s become a thing to fear, or worse be bored by (feedback sandwich anyone?!). As Steve Roesler has commented “The term “feedback” has morphed into “Here’s what you need to correct” instead of “Here’s how I think we’re doing.” It’s become a statement of performance rather than a discussion.

But, done well, feedback can be a dynamo to drive our team’s sense of value, it can propel learning and develop our strengths, it’s so simple but the lack of it is one of most cited reasons for leaving a job.

Simon Sinek has written about leaders creating a ‘circle of safety’ in their teams and this sense of safety has to be built to encourage people to give each other feedback, positive and developmental. Inside that circle we can encourage people to practice daily acts of feedback and to view them as not random acts of meanness or criticism, but as purposeful acts of appreciation for each other’s work. Even negative feedback shows that we care for each other and each other’s work, I care enough about what you do to talk about it with you. Not all feedback will, or should be glowing, but it should all come with a big helping of kindness and understanding.

When we’re willing to hear feedback ourselves, offer it constructively to others and then sit with it and work through the feelings provoked we can start to make headway. Great feedback provides us with:

  • A sense of belonging – being part of a team that cares enough to share
  • A purpose – understanding why & how our individual contributions make a difference to our colleagues
  • Aspirational goals – something to strive for, fuelling our desire to do things better, improve and develop for the future
  • Trust in each other – good feedback builds trust and strengthens our circle of safety: I start to trust you to let me know where I can be better but also to support me if I take a misstep, and to appreciate & value my contributions.

You know what, you don’t build that deep conversation from once or twice a year reviews. It has to be woven into everyday practice so… Feedback would happen more often if we stopped labelling it appraisal, or review or feedback and just had purposeful conversations with each other. Nothing earth shattering there, just a concerted effort to speak up and to listen, to share and to care, every day.

 

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