When was the last time you received some really good feedback? The kind that really resonates with you causing you to significantly shift your behaviors or actions? The kind that was so impactful you can look back on it and feel genuinely grateful to the person who had the courage to invest in your development by sharing it with you? The kind that illustrated without question that the giver was interested in your best interest and your development by sharing it because it would have been far easier for them to not share it? The likelihood is that this type of feedback has come very sporadically, if at all, in your life. The reason is because the vast majority of people are not comfortable giving feedback, not practiced giving feedback and therefore don’t give feedback.
Many people struggle with giving feedback due a belief that critiques of performance will be interpreted as offensive. The reality is that feedback is positive by its very construction: Feed or nourishment that you are giving Back to the individual. The paradox of feedback is that it has to be given in order for it to be beneficial.
Understanding and mastering the paradox of feedback is foundational to establishing true talent development. The focus and attention of organizational leaders who truly want to build great teams must be here. The challenge and skill of giving feedback is learning how to do so in a manner that is factual, constructive, and encouraging.
Based on real life experiences. It does not involve the phrases ‘you always…’ or ‘you never…’ Those phrases are generalities that are inherently false and immediately dismissed. Factual feedback can be linked to a very specific time or place where a very specific action or behavior took place.
This is not criticizing which is how the phrase constructive feedback is often interpreted. Constructive feedback is something that can be built upon. It can be appreciative, leaving the individual feeling upbeat, optimistic, and positive. It can also highlight a development opportunity that may leave the person feeling reflective and thoughtful. Constructive feedback should not leave a person feeling pessimistic, beat up, or negative. If this happens the giver of the feedback missed their responsibility in the feedback transaction; the opportunity to provide the nourishment for growth. Ultimately, they may end up damaging the relationship and closing off the communication channels for future feedback to be received.
Truly transformational feedback is encouraging. The greatest skill needed in giving feedback is knowing your audience well enough to be able to build them up even while delivering a message for development. In the competitive talent market that we have today, this becomes even more crucial to talent retention. People need to know that their leaders have their best interests in mind and to believe that their leaders are coaching and developing them to become the very best versions of themselves. To establish this, feedback must be encouraging even when it is difficult or challenging.
Talent development involves frequent and regular touch points with the members of the team to build trust and a relationship through which feedback can be received. Talent development requires developing skills for giving feedback and messaging the feedback to the benefit and growth of the receiver. This means taking the time to be very intentional about the message of the feedback. What do I need to be received from this feedback? What do I need the outcome to be? What do I need to change or be adjusted? How do I partner collaboratively to make sure the course correction being asked for in the feedback is successful and to the benefit or the whole organization?
Talent development means being open to feedback flowing towards the leader as well. It means having an ear to realize and understand that, as a leader I may not have all the answers and my perspective and viewpoint are also skewed by my reality. Talent development means being accountable to the team while expecting accountability in return. ‘What feedback do you have for me?’ is a critical phrase heard in any high performing culture. It signifies that the culture itself is striving for something better. It signifies that the culture itself has respect for the opinions and perspectives of the members within. It signifies that everyone in the culture is open to being challenged and having their perspectives refined.
Talent development is constant and ongoing. It happens minute by minute and is the life blood of a high performing culture and team. This is very different from traditional performance management programs which are typically annual events that interrupt the normal course of business because they are viewed as an extemporaneous requirement. Talent development is the privilege and honor of a true leader.
Organizations that fail to internalize and comprehend the paradox of feedback and talent development will continually be faced with the challenge of high turnover, disengaged people, and withheld discretionary effort. These organizations will continue to be left wondering how they can attract better people while constantly losing the great people they already have.
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