Feedback is critical to any business, and an increasing array of social tools have entered the market to allow the regular flow of feedback to course throughout an organisation. Foremost amongst these have been the kind of performance appraisal systems developed by companies such as Work.com.
I’ve written previously about the way to deliver great feedback, and indeed on how to build a feedback culture. For this blog though I’d like to explore the thorny issue of delivering negative feedback. It’s something most managers struggle with, yet is essential if we are to improve what we do, both individually and collectively.
Doing this well is essential, for when it’s done badly it helps to foster a poisonous culture of blame and back-biting that drags the organisation into the mud. The opposite of course is that people become afraid of speaking up for fear that doing so will damage their prospects. So, in order to do things right, here are a few tips to help.
Build the culture
One of the great things about software like Work.com is that it helps to develop a feedback culture. This communicates to employees that feedback is an expected part of their role, and that sharing thoughts is a good thing. What’s more, it encourages that communication up the hierarchy as well as down and across it. As a manager, you can help to build this culture by starting sentences with a question rather than an order, and encourage employees to voice their opinions.
Ask the right questions
There’s a big difference between asking open questions and closed questions. Open questions suggest that the answer is still to be decided, therefore empowering employees to be creative and forthright in their response. Asking provocative questions allows teams to think differently, and move forward with more radical ideas.
Shred the red tape
As organisations develop, it’s almost inevitable that a host of silly rules and procedures will emerge that harm productivity rather than support it. Hosting set piece events where employees are encouraged to think of ways to shred the bureaucracy can be great to promote the culture of questioning norms. It also shocks employees out of autopilot mode and gets them thinking strategically about the business.
Appreciate the mavericks
Most organisations have employees that think differently, but few seem to appreciate such people. Instead they’re branded as trouble makers that question the status quo. The beauty of creating a strong feedback culture is that these folks are now celebrated as the creative thinkers that will make your business better.
Accept the uncertainty
When you’re improving things, uncertainty is inevitable. Whilst this unsettles some people, it will be difficult to get better without it. Cultures of continuous improvement thrive on this feeling, so it’s something that will need to be cultivated in your own organisation.
Do these things and you should go a long way to building the kind of culture where feedback is part of your DNA. Let me know any other ideas you have in the comments.