Is feedback “the new black” ?

What will be this year’s fashion fad ?

Every other year, the international consulting community comes up with a new panacea to cure all organisational ills.  This miracle cure always gets a glamorous launch.  Success stories of the shining bright companies profiling as pioneers for the new approach become the “must-read" item and if you don’t follow their example, you are sure to die like a dodo.

A good example of these organisations are those who first installed ‘lean processes’, continued with ‘the new way of working’ and as their crowing glory, proclaimed themselves ‘agile’.

HR professionals seem to be extra sensitive to these hypes.  They get excited about the  "war for talent”, “millennials”, “resilience”, “disruptive change” and “self steering teams”.  All the while, they don’t seem to realise that these noble truths go way above the heads of most employees.

Although HR’s reaction might seem like blind adoration,  this is not necessarily the case.  Almost all HR professionals that I know are sincerely concerned for their organisation and its employees.

However, organisations are complex creatures that rarely function as they should.  We all know that chaos naturally ensues as soon as you bring a sufficient amount of people together.  HR teams are expected to bring order in this daily human chaos.   Who could blame them to reach out for a model to fulfil this task ? After all, a model offers steadfast support.

The illusion : creating an organisation

Yet, a model offers much more than steadfast support :  it offers the illusion of malleabilityIt offers a waft of ‘new and improved’. It holds the promise of a “bright new world” as soon as you get rid of the old baggage.

The downer is that, as much as you would like it to, this magic doesn’t work in the “real world” of your organisation.

To illustrate my point , let me share with you that my brother plays trombone in the local brassband. The band is not bad but to really make it to the top, they would have to throw out half of the horn players and a quarter of the percussionists.  Needless to say, nobody wants to take on that evil task.

CEO’s hate hearing this but their organisation is less malleable than they like to think and much more likely to resemble my brother’s brassband : it’s a group of people who want to reach the same goal, hopefully working together.  Whatever the goal of the organisation may be, in the end it is the people who will make the difference.

Change your company, start with individuals.

Therefore, if you want your organisation to function optimally, you will need to address individual employees. What do they need in order to do a good job and to be happy ?

To get a clear answer, you will need to explain to your employees why their job is useful and necessary.  You will need to talk to them about what they do and how they do it.

And this is where feedback comes into the picture. Thanks to effective feedback, people get better results, keep growing and stay motivated.

Regular feedback is an essential part of each manager’s tasks.  That seems ridiculously obvious and yet most people don’t do it or if they do, not in a good enough way.  The data on research about this topic are staggering. Three quarters of all employees would like to get feedback by their manager on a monthly basis but almost half of these don’t get any feedback ar all or they only get negative comments.  Of all recent recruits, three quarters say that they have no idea how well they function or how they could improve.

Our brain doesn’t like feedback

However, it isn’t only the managers who are to blame : most people simply don’t like getting feedback.  Our brain is not programmed for it.  Our brain doesn’t like danger or threat.  If it gets a sniff of it,  we produce stress hormones which, in turn, make us take flight.

That’s right, our brain experiences feedback as a threat : we don’t enjoy comments about our behaviour and the comments we do get usually don’t improve the working relationship.  In such a moment, our brains prevent us from listening well or from thinking clearly and as a result, feedback misses its target.

At the same time, people love to learn and learning without feedback is a toughie.  When we have learned something new, our brain rewards us.  It releases dopamine which is the famous feel-goodhormone.  The same thing happens when someone encourages us or if we receive specific appreciation for your work.

When feedback works well

It boils down to knowing how to give feedback in such a way that the one who receives it doesn’t feel threatened  but sees it as an opportunity for learning and growth.

This is no miracle skill reserved for the lucky few, it is something all of us can learn.

Indra Partners  offers a workshop that combines the renowned  DESC method with elements of non-violent communication.  Not only do we teach how to give feedback effectively, but we make participants think about why and about what they want to give feedback. The simple truth is, that you only give feedback when you find something important. But what is it exactly that you find important and why do you find it so ?  It is what we describe in another article : ‘the difference between a need and a strategy’.

If you manage to bring clarity about this for yourself, and if you manage to put the right words on it, you will notice that feedback can have a positive effect and that it can actually improve working relationships.

Hence our advise to  most ‘fashionable’ consultants : Follow the latest trends, but make sure you have enough trusted basics in your closet.  And as far as trusted basics go, we can assure you that feedback is nothing else than the “little black dress” of any manager’s success story.

Find out more about feedback ?

We have prepared a quick reference guide with a brief description of the DESC method and useful tips for everyone who would like to give feedback in a connecting way ànd with result.

You can download it for free on this page.


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