I would like to invite you to think a bit more deeply about why you give feedback and what you hope to achieve in the process.
If you are a manager, the chances are that you will have to give formal feedback to your team at least once a year. This annual ritual of appraisal has become deeply embedded in most organisations and is the bane of many people’s lives
- HR expend enormous amounts of energy trying to get appraisals completed
- Managers see the process as a massive chore
- Employees wonder what the agenda is this year and await the day of judgement
In theory, the process creates an opportunity to talk about how things are going. In practice it is often about judgement and scoring.
Feedback in the corporate world is really about getting people to play a productive part in the organisational machine
Feedback in the corporate world is really about getting people to play a productive part in the organisational machine. Performance management of the component parts does little for real people and yet it is real people who come to work.
I have been a little bit stark here and I know that many appraisal discussions are far more human than this. However, if I ask you to look a bit deeper at what you are trying to achieve through your feedback, I wouldn’t be too surprised to find some of the following thoughts/aims:
It is my job to see that your performance improves (and I want to fix you)
- It is my job as a manager to judge you and tell you what you need to do in the future.
- I am willing to listen but I don’t need or want to know about your life’s problems
- It is my job to see that your performance improves (and I want to fix you)
- I can’t tell you what I really think because it will get me into trouble
- I have an agenda and I am going to persuade / influence you to do what I want
If any or all of this is true for you then I would like to offer you some thoughts on how you could give feedback from a different perspective.
To do this, I would like you to think about your values and beliefs about people at work. If it is all about the job for you then what I am going to say next will not make much sense. If you are genuinely concerned and interested in the people doing the jobs then I have something that might be helpful to you.
people have a natural tendency towards growth
Humanists believe, as do I, that people have a natural tendency towards growth. We don’t need to be told to grow – we will do it naturally given the right circumstances. If you accept this point of view then being a leader changes from managing people’s growth to creating the best conditions for people to grow by themselves. This is liberating because it means you don’t have to fix people. If you can only create the right conditions, they can take responsibility for fixing themselves. Allowing people to take this responsibility is one of the most enabling things you can do as a leader.
So how do you create the best conditions? Here are some ideas:
- Listen fully and deeply to people and check what you have heard. You will be surprised at how powerful giving someone your full attention is. It demonstrates that you care and you might even find out what is really going on.
- Accept and value people as they are (you don’t have to like what they do). This is an attitude of mind that you can’t fake. When you judge people, you are not accepting them as they are. When people feel judged they defend themselves. When people are defended it is harder to communicate.
- Be honest, open and authentic. This is not easy to do. Giving feedback is much more powerful when it reflects what you really think (and feel). You have to communicate your acceptance at the same time or your feedback becomes judgemental. Once people know that you respect them enough to be straight, they will trust you.
These are not techniques and will have little value if they don’t resonate within you
The hardest part is being able to build these ways of being into who you are. It takes practice and they all have to be present to be effective. It is no good being a great listener if your agenda is really to find fault for example. These are not techniques and will have little value if they don’t resonate with you.
To conclude, let me pull the key points together for you.
Real people come to work with all their glorious strengths and abilities. If you can create the right conditions, people will flourish and give so much more than what is asked for in their job description. If you give feedback from a position of judgement and measurement people will do what they have to but maybe not much more. If you give feedback from a position of understanding, acceptance and truth then you can do your bit to help people grow. Then we all benefit.
If you would like to know more about developing these abilities for yourself, please look at our Conscious Leader Programmes