3 Questions to Improve Feedback Conversations

Giving feedback is one of those tasks that very few look forward to.

Some actively avoid the process altogether, capitulating only when annual performance reviews demand that something be documented. Even with the best of intentions to provide honest and useful insight, feedback is easily pushed to the bottom of a to-do list already crowded with tasks and deadlines. We’ll get around to it later, we say, as a couple more projects jump ahead in the list.

It is unfortunate that feedback has this reputation as a dreaded and burdensome part of organizational life. However, there are trends transforming the status quo for the better- to remake feedback into a process of broader performance conversations.

The promise of these conversations is two-fold: to lower the barriers of feedback and integrate it seamlessly into everyday work, and to make it into a two-way conversation rather than something that is grudgingly given and received.

If that statement is cause for concern (continuous feedback?!), critical feedback is probably what immediately comes to mind. It is a valid worry, according to findings from recent surveys of managers. Those surveys reveal a mindset where corrective feedback is a necessary part of managing, while praise is optional – “quick to criticize and slow to praise.”

That mindset, much like infrequent feedback, appears to be fading. In its place, there is a growing recognition of the need for a more balanced approach, spanning the constructive to the celebratory. The notion of a “conversation” is equally important, transforming the recipient of feedback into an active participant, the giver of feedback into more of a coaching role, and conversations as both lightweight and real-time.

Getting into the habit of these conversations and gaining familiarity with what feedback works when will take some practice, but there are several questions that can help with the transition.

  1. What is the type of task, in terms of routineness and frequency?
    For tasks that are routine and frequent, a more constructive approach that focuses on specific and repeatable behaviors is more appropriate. For tasks that are novel or infrequently encountered, perhaps celebratory feedback that emphasizes process and adaptability is better.
  2. Who has visibility into the performance?
    This will help ensure that relevant stakeholders have been given the opportunity to provide input into the performance conversation, particularly where colleagues or even customers may be in a better position than the manager to observe the individual
  3. What has the history of performance conversations been?
    Because feedback is more frequent, the track record of these conversations over time becomes more important in terms of the balance of constructive to celebratory feedback. Data from these conversations becomes important in calibrating future conversations to maintain motivation and improvement.

Performance conversations will present a shift in mindset and behavior for many, but ultimately will enable organizations to improve performance at the speed of business. What does feedback look like for your company?

As Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. He is the co-author of “The Power of Thanks” and his articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.

This post originally appeared on Compensation Cafe
Author: Derek Irvine