The simplest of elements, feedback, seems to elude us in both management and performance improvement scenarios. It reminds me somewhat of the search for Intelligent Life in Outer Space. Supposedly earth-based scientists keep sending out signals, hoping for some feedback. Hoping for some acknewledgement that another intelligent life form exists and has heard our hellos and responds. If we got feedback, we would know the true facts.
And that is exactly the point, believe it or not. Lots of people would like to know what the situation is: are they doing a good job? Where exactly could they improve? Are we getting this particular part right? Does it fit into the big picture? Our research results with most Slovak clients have shown that continual feedback and appraisal is a key organisational challenge in Slovakia.
I am continually dismayed at how a culture that is so social and talkative off the job turns off when we enter the office door. We are a species organised around principles of communication. Use your strengths. Talk to people. Ask them. Tell them. Show them. Complete the circuit.
Of course, a big part of the problem, the problem of NOT giving feedback, is because the feedback you would like to give the person is negative. So you just - in your best management tactic - don't say anything at all. Where does that get you? Besides the fact that we all know the answer, consider the mediocrity it breeds.
And since all of this performance improvement is aimed at quality, profitability, and readiness; mediocre is not what you want. So the first rule with feedback is - when something goes well, acknowledge it!!
The third is the "But Rule"... what a wreck we make out of a simple situation, an opportunity for constructive criticism, a way to refocus the person back on the goal...by using BUT!
"You are working really hard, BUT..."
"I like your idea, BUT..."
"I appreciate the number of hours you are
putting in on this project, BUT..."
"I see what you are trying to do, BUT..."
People forget about the first part of the statement, when "BUT" hits the brain. Remember: you are trying to turn negative feedback into constructive criticism. Don't get messed up on a "BUT"! Try AND.
The effect of this approach is very interesting. People seem to remember the first AND the second part of your comment. Try those same sentences with "and". Try them on yourself, your friend. Get used to giving feedback constructively. Focus your feedback on what you want, not what you don't.
And get better results.
Mari Novak and Steven Kelly are partners at KNO Slovensko. Their column appears monthly. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
22. May 2000 at 0:00 | Steven Kelly