Friday, 19 August 2011

Improving Performance - Effective Feedback (1)

The object of giving feedback is either to get someone to change their behaviour (to improve) or to continue with a behaviour that is exemplary to others or that you wish to see continue. It is not to make them feel angry, resentful, unappreciated and uncooperative.

There are those who know how to give feedback and those who don’t. When you give feedback to someone, it’s usually because either:

1. They asked you for it;
2. It’s your job as their boss.

Feedback should be:

• Specific and justified;
• Timely;
• Acceptable (to the listener);
• Balanced.

I will deal with the first two in this post and will follow later with the second two.

If your feedback isn’t specific then it’s useless. Don’t be general and if you can’t think of the “right words” then use examples to make your point. This applies to both positive and negative feedback. Saying that someone is “poor at customer service” doesn’t help unless you can show what is “acceptable” and “not acceptable” about their service.

Justified means based on someone’s behaviour or words. If you can’t link comments to examples, avoid giving them. The best way to do this is by giving the feedback quickly (i.e. make it “timely” – see below). Some organisations have a formal “assessment process” every quarter or half year. Some encourage weekly “feedback” sessions. If you know that you can’t give feedback immediately, then make sure that you note down what you heard or saw so that you have examples to back you up. If others give you feedback about one of your direct reports, ask them to provide examples as well.

Timely feedback (positive or negative) is given as soon as possible after the event. After all, the quicker you do it, the quicker the recipient can take action (if they need to improve) or repeat the behaviour (if it is to be encouraged). This means that it is still relevant and the recipient has the opportunity to take corrective action immediately rather than waiting for months until the next appraisal.

I have spent more than half my life working in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in the world financial services industry running different service, operations and lending businesses, I started my own Performance Management Consultancy and work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.

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