20Dec

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” is a quote often attributed to Ken Blanchard, author, speaker, management expert, and business consultant. I thought this would be a great quote to build on in this blog post.

As we all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! (You do know that, right?!) Without a good breakfast, you won’t have the energy to get through the day! Likewise, without feedback, the people in your busines will starve. Without working feedback, they operate in a vacuum, and cannot improve, adapt, or evolve. And that’s what you need the people in your business to do if they, and you, are to succeed.

However, good quality feedback given to employees, seems not to be the norm. Only 58% of managers think they offer enough feedback. 65% of employees said that they wanted more feedback. While 98% of employees say that they fail to engage when managers give little or no feedback.

And giving regular, high-quality employee feedback makes business sense. 70% of employees said that they would work harder if they received regular feedback. Those who receive regular feedback are 50% more likely to stay.

An effective employee feedback policy should be an integral part of your company’s performance management process – as a key part of developing and retaining a high performing, loyal team.

Feedback is an essential part of performance management

Performance management is all about providing support, motivation and encouragement to help your team to succeed, as well as how you monitor and evaluate employees’ work and deal with any under-performance.

Providing in the moment feedback – good or bad – is at the heart of effective performance management. Why? Because positive feedback means that employees understand how well they are doing and do more of it. And negative feedback means that people are able to adjust if they aren’t on track.

There may be other elements to your performance management process. For example, there may be regular one-to-ones – conversations that usually last 20-30 minutes – each month, where you discuss what is going well and what needs to improve. There might also be an end of year performance review, which draws a line in the sand assessing the previous year’s performance and setting objectives for next year, usually linked to feedback recognition and reward techniques.

Whatever your performance management process, regular and immediate feedback, means that what is discussed during other elements of your performance management process doesn’t come as a surprise and expectations are managed. Feedback should be given in the moment – or shortly afterwards. It means that positive behaviours that are observed can be further encouraged immediately – or bottlenecks to performance addressed – rather than leaving it a few days, weeks or even months down the line. The longer you wait, the longer it will take for the employee’s behaviour to change.

Negative vs. positive feedback

As managers, we will always focus on someone’s poor performance rather than offer praise. It’s called negative bias – it means that we are wired as human beings to focus on the negative rather than the positive.

However, good performance management should always focus more on the positive – on encouraging and supporting people’s positive contributions. Re-enforcing positive behaviours makes it more likely that the behaviour will occur again in the future and that people will perform better and excel in their role.

Ideally the ratio, for high performing teams, is 4 to 1 in terms of positive to negative feedback.

The final point to be made here is to praise publicly, criticize privately. It’s nice to let someone know they did great work, but it’s even nicer if it can be done in front of their co-workers. It will make it that much more powerful. A simple idea for this is to have a public display (like a Slack channel, for example) or some recognition at the start of a team meeting to make sure everyone can see it. Equally, it’s a bad idea to give your negative feedback in public – so do it privately!

Why do we find it difficult to provide feedback?

Generally, a lot of people avoid giving negative feedback, because they don’t like having those difficult conversations. We fear them because of the potential reaction or confrontation we may get from the person we need to speak with. However, feedback that’s negative can tend to get left unspoken. Unfortunately, this means that issues can fester because they are left unaddressed – and greater problems can arise as a result. Before you know, you’re then at the formal warning stages or even the dismissal stage.

Giving positive feedback should be the easy part. Why wouldn’t managers take more advantage of this? Recognition is by far the easiest way to engage your team. It’s so simple, costs nothing, and is so effective. It’s also one of the only things that employees expect and get very upset when they don’t get it. So why don’t we give it more? Maybe it’s a time thing? Maybe it’s because managers don’t know how to do it properly? Maybe it comes back to people’s negative bias? May be managers just don’t know how to do it well?

Ways to give constructive feedback – a model

Whether it’s positive or negative feedback, if you have a planned and thought-out approach, it’s more likely to happen – and happen well – having the desired impact on behaviours and performance.

Let’s start with negative feedback, because this is what managers struggle with the most. The reality is if we “go there” with difficult conversations using a model, the discussion in reality is much less difficult and you will be much more successful at generating the outcome you are looking for.

The exact same model applies to giving positive feedback. Identify the behaviour – Provide Evidence and Examples and State the Impact of their Behaviour on others or on the business.

We’ve set out a model below – that we use to describe how to give effective feedback – to help you to deliver more and better feedback – and demonstrate how it is used to deliver negative feedback effectively to turn-around poor performance.

An Overview of the Steps:

  1. Identify the Behaviour Specifically that you Want to Give Feedback on

Isolate the problem. This will allow the person to listen without feeling like they are being insulted personally.

“I’d like to talk to you about the deadline you were working to regarding the X reports”

  1. Provide Evidence and Examples

Simply saying they do something in general is not effective enough. Give them at least one specific example as evidence.

“You missed the deadline for the X report”

  1. State the Impact of their Behaviour

By stating the impact their behaviour is having, their reaction will provide them with a broader perspective to consider in relation to their behaviour.

“when you miss the deadlines, the rest of the team is impacted as they cannot start their reports until yours are completed”

  1. Request a Change / Jointly Develop a Solution

Now is the opportunity to help them identify a change they could make around this behaviour or the issue. Where possible, if you can form a solution for change together, there is more likely to be a change in behaviour, as they have been part of coming up with the solution

“It’s really important that we come up with a way to ensure you are well organised and have a plan to meet your deadlines in the future, what do you think this might look like?”

  1. Follow up and Continue to Monitor Performance

Document what has been discussed and send the person a follow up email after the meeting being clear on the expected change of behaviour required. If the issue is not resolved, you’ll have to have a further meeting to remind the person of your agreement.

As a separate and final note, disciplinary action may be needed if the behaviour or problem continues. However, in most instances regular feedback means that many issues, in our experience, can be dealt with effectively before they escalate into bigger problems. And that’s exactly the reason for it!

Start to use this model as your performance feedback plan and get into the habit of giving great feedback. Your confidence will grow and delivering feedback will become second nature. Honestly!

Looking For Help to deal with poor performance. Let’s talk.

Whether you’re looking to introduce better performance management or equip your managers to be more effective in their performance management of their teams through giving better, higher quality feedback, then please get in touch. We can also provide you and your managers with the tools, coaching and support on how to deliver effective feedback. This is at the heart of building a high performing, motivated and loyal team, which is key to your business’ success.

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