Ken Blanchard, author, speaker, business consultant and executive coach is often quoted saying that “Feedback is the breakfast of Champions.” Blanchard actually attributes the quote to Rick Tate, one of his consulting partners. Tate often referenced feedback in connection to individuals in jobs that included feedback as an intrinsic part of their role. Sales professionals provided a rich example. A salesperson knows how well they are doing almost in real time. Of course the monthly figures provide clear feedback on the consistence of their success or failure, but Tate also draws our attention to the dynamic nature of the “yes” or “no” response of the salesperson’s potential customer. The engagement, or lack of from the customer provides a feedback dynamic for the sales professional that is ongoing and instantaneous. Some sales people thrive on the cut and thrust of this instant feedback, while others struggle and often switch roles or careers.
It may be the resilience of the sales person that enables them to thrive in that sort of environment. If Blanchard and Tate are correct and feedback is in fact the first thing that champions look for when they start their day, then all of us that aspire to thrive in our respective roles should pay attention to the benefits that feedback brings.
A helpful definition is that, “feedback is any message that provides information to aid in the achieving of desired goals.” It follows therefore that no matter who we are, or where we are, we are operating in a feedback rich environment. We just need to know where to look for it. A well struck ball from the foot of a professional footballer may not behave as desired due to pitch undulation, strong winds or the speed and fitness of an opponent. Our would be goal scorer may not need the manager and coach to inform from the sideline that this is the case. The feedback is plain for all to see. A writer, taking their time to produce an article for publication may not be conscious of the pressure faced by the editor in order to achieve the deadlines of the publisher. They may need gentle reminders, follow up calls and eventually an ultimatum. This feedback is not intuitively apparent but rather needs the prompting and motivation stimulated by the editors interventions.
In all of our examples, feedback enables and aids skill acquisition and enhancement and improves future performance. Of course some individuals will not be able to read the intuitive feedback of the footballer or may not be able to cope with the dynamic nature of feedback from the customers of our salesperson, particularly the negativity of the all to regular “no” from some customers.
Too often many team members only receive feedback that is punitive, vindictive or at times frustration or anger generated. The intent may be to “fix” the individual or the performance gap. However, that can only happen when the feedback offered is about the individuals well being and the enabling of their success. Where feedback is framed for a positive interaction, with the best in mind for the individual and delivered in a way that motivates and encourages rather than to denigrate or discourage, then the individual can thrive.
Good feedback not only enables the individual to improve by working to their strengths and on their weakness, it also serves as a mechanism that can regulate quality and consistency for the team or organisation. Feedback helps to establish norms of expectation, commitment and productivity. Without feedback, how can the individual improve? Without feedback, how can anyone know what they did well or what they need to improve upon? Without feedback, who can know if they are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations or falling short of the standard required?As any sales person will tell you, unbridled feedback that the individual needs to harvest for themselves can very quickly become wearing, wearying and demotivating. It is in the best interests of leaders, managers and coaches to provide, even the most challenging aspect of feedback within an environment whereby the individual is valued, resourced, empowered and enabled to deliver the very best version of themselves that they can be. Leaders can’t leave feedback to chance, but rather must make the most of every opportunity to provide feedback to team members and anyone else that asks.
We are often told that feedback should be given in the form of a sandwich that, let’s face it, none of us wants to take a bite of. You know the one I mean. I’m not sure that is the most effective way to give feedback. The key that opens the door to successful feedback is intent. When our intent is pure, when we have the best interests of the individual at heart. Then we are in a position to give clear and concise feedback that is both easy to understand and to apply. Good feedback is like a mirror, it lets the individual see for themselves where the blemishes are and it provides a means for them to accentuate the key characteristics that they want to put forward in the best possible light. So let those who would lead offer feedback in much the same way as a mirror would.
Motivate – use feedback to encourage, inspire and envision all that is achievable.
Inform – give the information that is needed for improvement and encouragement.
Reflect – allow time for what you are saying to increase awareness in the individual.
Reinforce – mention all the good that you see, reward positive actions.
Offer Guidance – signpost a mentor, a book or possible training experiences.
Review – don’t just leave it, follow up at a future time.
Sensitive – be mindful of self-esteem and the need to save face.
When feedback becomes part of our culture, then all that are part of the organisation will seek it out. It will become the norm, it will be what is expected. When that is the case we will be well on our way to becoming an organisation of leaders and champions, and that can be no bad thing. Especially if they have had their breakfast.
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