Mobilising the Messy Analogue Moving Parts - Week 2: Giving Good Feedback

Posted on February 11, 2020 at 12:24 PM

performance management feedback-1


Giving Really Good Feedback.

Last week we started our 6-week series by looking at emotional intelligence. Developing emotional intelligence is a must for managers wanting to give good feedback to their team. But why is giving good feedback so important?

A 2019 survey by Gallup reveals that when managers provide feedback on a weekly – rather than an annual - basis, their team members are:

  • 5.2 times more likely to strongly agree that they receive meaningful feedback
  • 3.2 times more likely to strongly agree they are motivated to do outstanding work
  • 2.7 times more likely to be engaged at work

But we shouldn’t assume that quantity always means quality.  Quality is much harder to measure and whilst the results above suggest that increased frequency leads to better outcomes, we should still be equipping managers to have meaningful and impactful conversations as well as frequent ones.

One thing we can do is encourage those feedback conversations to be employee-led.  By giving everyone the opportunity to seek out feedback for themselves (either using a feedback request function in the software or making it safe for people to ask directly) then we are creating the conditions under which people are likely to be most receptive to that feedback. 

A 2018 study by NYU neuroscientists West & Thorson looked at people’s biological responses to feedback about their performance and found that this creates a classical threat response in the receiver.  Even a casually-said “Can we just have a quick chat about your presentation?” will provoke a “Run away!” response in your brain.  It’s not comfortable for managers, either: having to offer critical feedback to someone resulted in increased heart rate and reported feelings of anxiety.  Not the most productive state of mind and certainly not one from which learning, growth and performance improvement is likely to stem.  So, our goal should be to minimise that threat response and make it easier for people to hear and offer feedback.  Creating that psychological safety is not easy – and both culture of the organisation and the personalities of the individuals play a large part here – but we can start by making it receiver-led wherever possible.

But back to quality.  Giving effective feedback is a trainable skill, and there is a wealth of online advice on how to do this (such as this one from MindTools).  At Head Light we often train managers in giving feedback and related skills, and we would endorse taking a considered, prepared and structured approach.  We use the acronym FEED to help managers to think about how they frame their feedback, in a way that makes it understandable and acceptable to the recipient:



Describe what it is that the person actually does - what does the behaviour look like? What did they say?



Give a recent example or instance where this was important



What effect does this have? (on others' perceptions, on the individuals work, on you, on the team, on clients?)



Suggest an alternative approach - or ask the individual what they could have done differently.


We also encourage people to develop a ‘feedback mindset’; that is, to go in to any conversation where constructive feedback needs to play a part with these three things firmly at the front of your mind:

  1. It is in the person’s best interests to hear this feedback; it’s important to their performance and future success
  2. It is your responsibility as a manager to give feedback and help the individual learn, grow and be more effective
  3. You are not criticising or attacking; you are giving feedback and there is a difference.

Next week's focus is on helping managers to foster coaching capabilities in their conversations enabling people to take more ownership of their development and performance.

We hope you'll tune in then, but if this is not quite your thing then why not forward the link to a colleague who may like a read.

If you have any questions in the meantime do please get in touch.

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