LOOKING TO LEAD YOUR TEAM TO SUCCESS? EXPERTS SAY PROVIDING THE RIGHT KIND OF FEEDBACK IS A GOOD WAY TO START
To say anything is the “top leadership skill” is bold. But I’m going to make that claim now: Learning how to provide feedback is the top leadership skill you should develop.
Let me put that claim into context.
A leader would fail if they decided to only lead through feedback, without leaning on other critical leadership skills. Leaders must still be strategic, make tough decisions that others cannot, define and direct vision, hold others accountable, and protect their people with authority. However, there is no other skill that the best leaders utilize more often in their leadership role than providing timely, relevant feedback.
Some leaders — especially leaders who are in the earlier stages of developing their skills — overthink feedback and might even be afraid of it. Feedback is simply sharing with someone the relevant observations you have made about their work performance. When done right, it feels like a simple and helpful conversation that builds them up instead of tearing them down.
I’m not going to go into how to give great feedback. You can find a million good sources for that with a simple web search. What’s harder to find is a source that explains how to build a culture that allows for feedback to happen effectively in the first place.
What does it take to build a culture that fosters well received, timely, relevant feedback? It takes you. You must drive your culture this way. The primary thing you must do is proactively set your people up to receive feedback. Help them understand that feedback is not something to be feared or avoided. Feedback should not be punitive, one-way, an interaction that feels awkward, only for high potential performers, or only for struggling performers. Instead, it should be presented as an interactive discussion, commonplace, sought out, timely — an interaction that feels normal, a high priority, a way to prevent people from making bigger mistakes, a way to show appreciation, a sign of respect and value. Set the agenda early in a relationship with employees that feedback is just part of your relationship with your people and a primary function of getting the work done. Then consistently follow these eight steps:
1) During the hiring process, explain that there will be a supervisor (maybe you) who will oversee the work and provide timely, regular feedback to help them stay on track and perform well.
2) Use a daily agenda or daily tour of duty that includes touch-base conversations so they can see that you will be around to assess the work, discuss the work, and redirect if necessary.
3) Do the easy feedback. Regularly look for what your employees do well and tell them. Do this multiple times a day. Feedback should often be positive.
4) Schedule and prioritize employee reviews at least quarterly. These do not need to be as detailed as an annual review but should still make clear where your employee’s strengths and opportunities lie.
5) Do weekly one-on-one conversations about how your employee is a critical and strategic piece of the business. Discuss what went well and what could have gone better during the previous week and discuss the priorities for the following week. This conversation does not need to be more than 10 minutes but could go longer if you both find it valuable.
6) When introducing any new skill or operation, include that you will be providing continuous feedback until the new skill or operation is fully adopted and standard.
7) When determining that any business effort is a high priority, include that you will monitor closely and provide regular feedback.
8) Make a habit of walking through workspaces and asking how things are going. This will open up the occasional conversation where your employees will seek your feedback.
There could be more to this list but starting here should help any leader build that culture where feedback is expected and appreciated.
Even with the basics in place, it’s easy to see that feedback is something that should be incorporated throughout each day with each employee. In fact, in the best of cultures, feedback happens hundreds of times a week. Try incorporating it into your daily routine with your employees and before too long, you’ll be on your way to a team of people who deliver consistent, positive results.
Derek Pangelinan owns Derek Rey Consulting LLC. He is a management/leadership coach for small and medium business owners all across Oregon and Southwest Washington. He runs a variety of workshops to help them build their teams and improve communication and commitment in the workplace.