Don’t Overlook the Importance of Feedback

Bill said, “Yeah, I guess I am. I’ve been working on this new assignment at work and I think I’m doing pretty well. At first, it was hard to figure out exactly what I had to do and how to do it, but I think I have worked through all of that and I’m on the right track.”

“OK,” said Ann.  “So, that sounds good. What’s the problem then?”

“I’m just not sure if my boss thinks I am on the right track. When she first gave me the assignment, she was giving me all kinds of guidance, but she hasn’t talked to me about it is several weeks now. I don’t know for sure if I am doing what she expects,” he replied.

In his book, The One-Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard states, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” All of us want to know how well we are performing in our personal as well as our professional lives. In a study conducted in 1946, and repeated in 1949, 1980, 1988, 1991 and 1997, managers were asked what they think their employees want, and the employees were asked what they want. While the managers consistently say the employees want more money, the employees say they want more recognition of their work and feedback on how well they are doing.

Many organizations feel that the annual performance review is sufficient feedback.  However, W. Edwards Deming, PhD listed “Abolish Performance Appraisals” as one of his Fourteen Points. Deming said that instead of waiting for the once-a-year “gotcha” performance review you should become the “engaged manager,” giving feedback on a weekly, daily, and possibly hourly basis.

Giving feedback is sometimes uncomfortable, but it is more uncomfortable if it is only done once a year.  What is the benefit to supervisors and managers of giving frequent, regular feedback?

With regular communication, you:

Reduce apprehension, uncertainty, and confusion. The more you discuss performance standards and how well the employee is measuring up to those standards, the more the employee will understand his or her performance, and there will be less ambiguity and tension.

Dispel rumors. You will be able to address employee concerns and provide factual information on what is going on in the workplace.

Improve performance. Without feedback, employees don’t know if they are performing to the expected standards or not.  They may continue poor performance, not realizing that they are not performing well.

Increase confidence. Employees who understand how their performance ranks against the standards feel they can control their destiny and can make the improvements or continue the good performance. Also knowing that their supervisor cares enough about their success to take the time and effort to give them feedback increases their confidence that they will succeed.

How can the supervisor give effective feedback? Some of the best and simplest tools are the One-Minute Goal Setting, One-Minute Praisings, and One-Minute Reprimands that are described by Ken Blanchard in The One-Minute Manager. These are effective models that provide a context for giving feedback.

The responsibility for feedback does not rest solely on the manager and supervisor; the employee needs to take some responsibility as well.

As an employee, you should take responsibility to:

Know what are your duties and responsibilities. Have you reviewed your job description?  Are you doing all of what is described? If you are unsure, you should go to your supervisor and ask for feedback and clarification. If you need training, this is an opportunity to ask for guidance in what training is needed and what is available.

Know the performance standards for your duties. Again, this gives you an opportunity to ask for feedback and clarification. Asking for such clarification does not make you look stupid, but shows that you are concerned about good performance and you are willing to work at it.

Ask for feedback. Supervisors and managers are busy enough that they sometimes forget to schedule time for feedback. If you feel you need feedback, call your boss and ask if he or she can make some time for you in the next week or so.

Be prepared for feedback. If you ask your boss for some time, you should be ready to make it productive. If you have concerns, make sure you can articulate them to your boss and be prepared to take action on the comments. If you know of some training or some other opportunity that will enhance your performance, be prepared to ask to attend. Tell your boss how you want to progress in the organization, so he or she can advise you on the best approach to achieve these goals.

When you receive feedback about what you are doing well, take time to consider how you can apply this success to other parts of your job. When you receive feedback about areas that need improvement, don’t be defensive. Remember, you asked for this feedback! Ask for specific examples of how you need to improve and clarify any questions you may have.  Set a time to revisit these areas to evaluate how you are doing on making the improvements.

Certainly, the need for feedback, both giving and receiving, forces us out of our comfort zones. It is easier to avoid a possible confrontation, but no one ever moved forward in a journey by standing still.  Both managers and employees have responsibility for feedback, because as Ken Blanchard said, it’s the breakfast of champions!

Bob Wangen is the president of Great Lakes Training & Consulting in DeWitt. He is a certified manager of quality/organizational excellence and a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Great Lakes Training & Consulting assists businesses improve their performance through employee and leadership development and business process improvement.








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