As a leader, it is our role to develop those around us and achieve organisational goals. This enables members of society to become better than they were yesterday.
Leaders enable followers to be better by inspiring them to new heights: to the benefit of themselves, their organisation, and their followers. But many leaders make the mistake of failing to give effective feedback to facilitate the betterment of others (or choosing to give negative feedback). Even Bill Gates, one of the top global performers, recognises the importance of giving and receiving feedback.
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
Just recently I spent a Friday night managing a small pop-up bar at one of Launceston’s Yorktown Night Market. As a part of this, the bar had another employee and four trainees undertaking a hospitality certificate. For me, I quickly recognised the other employee’s experience in the field and allowed him to work autonomously.
The four trainees, however, had limited experience within food and beverage and required more attention. I found that simply instructing the trainees didn’t free up any of my time, requiring constant support and instruction. Even in a fast-paced environment, where my time was limited, I still made effort to provide feedback regularly.
Noticeably, their performance improved and the burden required of me was lessened. As their skills developed, I was able to have more free time for other tasks and eventually I was able to have a wander around the market myself: trusting the employees to operate autonomously.
“There is huge value in learning with constant feedback.” – Anant Agarwal
I found that there are some general rules when it comes to giving effective feedback. The first, I found, was ensuring it came after the fact. After I taught the trainees a task, I allowed them time to get comfortable with the activity before giving them feedback. I didn’t want to dishearten them before they had even got ‘the feel’ for the task.
My feedback came with two parts: first was something positive (where this was possible) and impersonal, and the second was something constructive. I don’t use the term negative feedback, because I do not consider feedback about bad performance to be negative. Instead by engaging in tasks they have performed well in, I allowed employees to develop confidence in their abilities and perform better. However, ensuring that commentary is given for areas of improvement will enable continual development.
For example, “I expect more respect towards customers,” is demanding, negative, and puts employees on the defensive. They are less likely to want to listen or engage in meaningful improvement after such comment. They may retort with a defense, “The customer was rude to me first.”
Instead, try for a positive comment and then a constructive one, such as “I thought you served that customer promptly, allowing for quick service, but ensuring that you engage with the customer by asking how they are is of equal importance.” This feedback praised good work and made it tangible as to the positive output of that good performance. Following that, was an area for improvement and a practical method to do so.
Give honest positive and/or constructive feedback, it helps followers learn and perform more effectively. Avoid negative feedback, as its outcomes are not likely to be positive for the organisation. Be ready to equally receive and implement the feedback from others about yourself, as followers will likely model leader behaviours.
“Regular feedback is one of the hardest things to drive through an organisation.” – Kenneth Chenault
So, be a leader of feedback and enable your employees/followers to be better than they were. You’ll reap the benefits of more effective people around you, and they will respect you more for it.
*Image by Alan Levine