3 Feedback Mistakes to Avoid
External Article | Accountability
Business leaders understand the importance in finding the confidence to speak up and have the tough conversations about employee performance. However, this process of giving sometimes loses emphasis in one crucial area: listening. Whether positive or negative, even the boss needs to hear – and actively respond to – feedback from colleagues.
Why is constructive feedback important?
There’s a reason why our accountability training and measuring includes a feedback section: It’s among the many ways to achieve a high-performance culture of accountability, where employees are engaged and valued members of a unified team.
Constructive feedback is relevant for team members on all ends of the spectrum. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it’s critical for improving performance. When employees – including managers and executives – are given an accurate, third-party assessment of how they are doing, they can better determine what’s helping or hindering them reach their goals and make behavior and process adjustments accordingly.
Ready to start giving and receiving more effective feedback? Make sure to avoid these top mistakes:
Mistake #1: Only giving negative feedback
On paper, feedback can be a helpful opportunity to look back on someone’s performance and make moves to improve – yet in practice, it tends to get a bad rap. Why? Research shows that we’re quick to correlate feedback to negative experiences. The results from our recent Workplace Accountability Study showed that 80 percent of people feel they only receive feedback when something goes wrong.
When leaders and employees associate feedback with only poor performance, feedback becomes stigmatized and its power lessened. But when feedback is a continual practice that allows managers and employees to share both appreciative and constructive feedback, it becomes far more valuable for everyone involved. Focus on providing positive feedback that reinforces good habits and strong performance alongside feedback that acts as a course correction.
Mistake #2: Avoiding feedback from subordinates
Forget everything your parents told you because in this case, receiving is far superior than giving. It’s easy for leaders to fall into a trap of feeling like they need to have all the answers, acting as the one-and-only source of valuable feedback. In reality, the best leaders know that their employees can also teach them a thing or two.
“From the first person I hired, I was never the smartest guy in the room,” said Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electrical. “And that’s a big deal … If you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the world [or] in the room, you’ve got real problems.”
Tom Smith, co-author of New York Times bestselling book The Oz Principle, taught a similar lesson: “You have to learn to be corrected.”
Ancient philosophers also knew the value of listening. In the words of Greek philosopher Epictetus: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
Following the logic of these three accomplished leaders, aim to constantly seek feedback from others, rather than merely giving it.
Mistake #3: Responding poorly to feedback
Even when framed respectfully and constructively, feedback can be hard to take for people at every level of leadership. This creates a feedback loop that can be destructive to accountability: People who routinely respond poorly to feedback give pause to those in a position to offer constructive advice, which in turn can result in smaller issues festering into bigger ones.
As such, the way you respond can directly encourage or avert employees and peers from sending constructive criticism your way. Try to get in the habit of following these steps when receiving feedback:
- Practice active listening: Make sure you are tuned in and your body language is in check so people can tell that you’re genuinely engaged in the conversation.
- Thank them: Tell them how appreciative you are that they took time out of their day to share their feedback with you.
- Follow up: If the feedback warrants changes on your end, have a follow-up meeting with them to get their perspective on how they feel about your efforts to improve. Not only will this validate their opinion and the feedback they gave you, but it will also show that you understand that giving feedback is a two-way street and part of a fulfilling professional relationship.
Your task at hand is to stop feeling like you need to be the smartest person in the room and instead be a leader who listens. Create stronger relationships with your employees, ones where the praise and constructive feedback flows naturally between both parties.
With all this in mind, we’ll leave you with a challenge to get you on the path to being a stronger, more accountable leader: Reach out to at least four employees or fellow managers in the next week to ask for constructive feedback on your performance. You may be surprised how much you learn.