27 September 2023

Motivated by feedback: Improving feedback delivery

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Amanda Setili* says feedback can be helpful and energising — or it can be annoying and destructive. It all depends on how it’s presented.

It amazes me how motivating I’ve found the feedback from the sensor I use while kiteboarding.

It tells me how high I jump and how my jumps compare to other kiters around the world.

That got me thinking about how, when I change my technique or equipment, I can immediately see the impact on my results.

How, I wondered, can we make feedback at work this helpful, and energising?

That thought led me to create some principles that can transform feedback from annoying to amazing.

Feedback should come from the work itself

The best feedback comes from the work itself, rather than from an employee’s supervisor.

Make it easy for employees to see the results of their work, every day.

For example, funnel client comments directly back to the employees involved.

Feedback should be close to constant

Employees need frequent feedback so that people can see how they’re doing and so they can adjust course as conditions change.

Think daily… rather than weekly, monthly or annually.

That’s one reason you should design the work so that feedback comes directly from the work itself, with no intermediary.

As a manager, you won’t have the time to personally give feedback to every team member every day.

Feedback should be consistent with overarching goals

Make sure the feedback guides each team and individual to fulfil the organisation’s larger goals.

That sounds obvious, but the things we reward employees for are often in direct conflict with organisational goals.

When you see something going wrong, check to see if poorly designed feedback and incentives are at the root of it.

Goals should be realistic

The individual needs to feel capable that they can do what you are asking them to do.

It doesn’t have to be easy, but it needs to be within the realm of possibility.

You can change this perception with support, training and proper tools.

People must have the power to act on the feedback

The most frustrating thing in the world is to be given feedback that you are forbidden to act upon.

Enable employees to make decisions in response to the feedback they receive; this may mean empowering them to make certain decisions at a lower level than was previously allowed.

Now, let’s contrast these positive principles with what your team members don’t need.

They don’t need some arbitrary opinion from you every 12 months. They need to be able to answer: “How did I do this morning?”

*Amanda Setili helps successful leaders and their teams agree on what needs to change and how to make it happen. She is author of Fearless Growth: The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation, and Dominate Your Markets. Amanda can be contacted at setili.com.

This article first appeared on at setili.com.

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