Feedback helpful or harmful

At our youngest daughter’s sixth birthday party, a five year- old boy hit Vanessa on the head. Asked to apologize, he politely refused: “Mr. Clemmer, I don’t apologize unless I see teeth marks or blood.”

Many managers don’t realize the problems they’re creating unless they see teeth marks or blood. The most insensitive managers are those who lack good feedback systems and refuse to seek input on how to improve their own performance.

Feedback is as critical to personal, team, and organization effectiveness as cake is to a six-year-old’s birthday party. Without feedback, we’re like kids playing a blindfolded game. It’s so difficult — and often hilarious — because we stumble around wildly missing the target when we can’t tell how we’re doing.

In his new book, Fit to Compete, Harvard Business School professor, Michael Beer, declares that “honest conversations about your company’s capabilities are the key to a winning strategy.” He writes, “Many management failures — including the many corporate scandals of the last twenty years and the concurrent growing mistrust of leaders and institutions — are rooted in the inability of corporate leaders to learn the truth and respond effectively.”

In a New York Times article, “Give Compassionate Feedback While Still Being Constructive,” Arianna Huffington, writes, “Compassionate directness is about empowering employees to speak up, give feedback, disagree, and surface problems in real time.” She points out, “How (her emphasis) feedback is delivered is one of the most vital — and underappreciated — indicators of a company’s success. People are hungry for feedback that helps them grow and improve. According to a survey by Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy, 92 percent of people agreed that “negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.” Arianna is citing Jack and Joe’s research paper, “Your Employees Want the Negative Feedback You Hate to Give,” published by Harvard Business Review.

How are you doing?

Here’s a quick self-assessment to give yourself feedback on your feedback:

  • Is silence sinking your team/organization?
    Boeing’s culture likely caused those tragic crashes. Complete our short quiz to see if you have a moose mess and follow a few tips to reduce your moose.
  • Are you fostering a team/organizational culture of courageous conversations?
    You can take a few key actions to “reduce the moose” and surface barriers that need to be addressed.
  • Are you me-deep in fooling yourself?
    Our work with 360 assessments consistently shows that the lowest rated leaders rate themselves much higher than everyone else does.
  • Would your manager, peers, and team members see you as a courageous leader regularly asking for feedback on your effectiveness?
    Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s deadly to leadership effectiveness.
  • Are you paying a high cost for not dealing with a toxic employee?
    Many leaders avoid giving corrective feedback because they don’t know how. Following a few key steps can make a huge difference.
  • How constructive is your criticism?
    It can quickly become destructive criticism when it’s delivered by a leader with a low negativity/positivity ratio.
  • Are you positively correcting negative behavior?
    There are a few vital coaching principals that strengthen self-esteem and avoid what can feel like personal putdowns or attacks.
  • Do you listen to their views before giving feedback?
    Managers rated as great listeners (often asking good, open-ended questions before giving feedback) were assessed as four times more effective then poor listeners.
  • Do you turn feedback into change?
    Leaders who get the most benefit from their 360 feedback assessments pass through three stages; Acceptance ->  Prioritization -> Making Change Happen.

Don’t wait to see blood or the aftermath of a moose mess. Make sure you’re getting unfiltered feedback on how feedback is stimulating or stifling growth for you, your team, and your organization. How do you KNOW?