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Feedback Mandatory

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


’Feedback is the breakfast of champions’

This quote is most-often attributed to Ken Blanchard, but I have been unable to source it securely.  But its meaning is clear: It is a diet of good quality feedback that helps us grow and develop into top performers.

Feedback is the perfect accompaniment to goal-setting (which we looked at last week).  The two are so inter-twined and so fundamental that the very first Pocketblog started with an important experiment by Albert Bandura and Daniel Cervone that showed the power of these two in combination.

That post was called ‘Feedback Welcome’.  This one’s title is a nod in that direction, but takes it a step further.

As a manager, you have a responsibility to the people you manage and lead.  You must develop them, you must recognise their contributions and you must reward them for their effort.  Feedback is the principal way you can do that.

Feedback can be:

  1. Judgemental (‘what you did well/badly was…’) or
    Non-judgemental (‘I notice that what you did was… and this is what happened’)
  2. Positive (‘What you did that I liked was..’) or
    Negative (‘What I would like you to improve was…’)
  3. Outcome based (‘You got a really good result with…’) or
    Process based (‘I was impressed by the way that you…’)
  4. Comparative (‘Your work exceeded the standards for…’) or
    Absolute (‘Your work was excellent’)
  5. Personal (‘I want to thank you for your excellent work’) or
    Impersonal (‘You work met the highest standards’)

Give your Feedback a BOOST

Great feedback should give your colleagues a real BOOST.

Balanced
It will not be surprising to you to learn that, on all of the five scales above, balance is key.  Sticking to one style will rarely serve the person you are developing well.  Each pairing represents a spectrum of styles and you must select where on each spectrum to place the balance, to get best effect.  At different times and in different situations, a different point of balance will be appropriate.

Observed
Provide precise feedback based on genuine observation; rather than hearsay.  The more evidence you can offer and the more precise that evidence is; the better your colleague will be able to calibrate their performance and understand the implications of their choices.

Objective
By this, I mean that it is important to give feedback on performance, rather than on the person.  Compare these to examples of feedback:

‘The analysis you gave was confused.’

‘Your thinking was confused.’

The first is something I can fix and your feedback is based on something you can observe and evaluate.  The second, even if true is harder to fix, but critical; you have no direct evidence: my thinking may be logical and rigorous, but my writing style confused – or maybe I was distracted – or maybe…  The first can motivate me to sort out my work; the second will demotivate me, as I will feel it as a personal attack.

Specific
If my analysis was confused, I can only address it if I know how and where you assess my work to be confused.  The more specific your feedback, the easier it is for me to fix my work – or the easier it is for me to understand what parts are good.

Timely
Deliver your feedback as soon as appropriate  but not before. If the situation is not suitable, or if you do not have a robust basis for observed and specific feedback, then wait.  But only wait as long as is necessary.  Don’t put feedback off, or its value will diminish and may even be lost.

Further Reading 

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Feedback Welcome

Welcome to the Management Pocketblog.

This is a blog dedicated to all things management and we want it to reflect the values and style of the management pocketbooks series.  You can read more about the blog at the ‘New Readers’ tab.

What Feedback do you give?

9781906610128 The newly published Feedback Pocketbook opens with a shocking statistic:  33% of British employees consider they rarely or never get feedback on their performance.  If you have an equivalent statistic for any other country, please do let us know in the comments section, below.

So let’s assume that this represents around a third of British managers, failing to offer feedback – at least in a form that it is recognised.  Are you one of them?

Wasted opportunity

Feedback helps us develop and is arguably the most valuable performance-enhancing tool that managers have.  So if you are not giving great feedback, you are losing a noticeable slice of potential performance.  It doesn’t take a big performance loss, when multiplied across all  of a manager’s team, to account for the difference between a profitable and failing business, or a successful or collapsing service.

How big could that difference be?

Bandura and Cervone

In the early 1980s, Albert Bandura and Daniel Cervone conducted experiments with students at Stanford University, on a cycling ergo meter.  They measured the performance of eighty cyclists and then split them into four groups, balanced for gender and ability:

  1. Group A
    were set goals for performance improvement
  2. Group B
    were given no goals, but feedback on their performance
  3. Group C
    got both performance goals and feedback
  4. Group D
    were a control group and got neither goals nor feedback

At the end of a training period, Bandura and Cervone found that the twenty cyclists who had received both clear performance goals and feedback had improved their performance to a higher degree (by a factor of more than 2) than any other group.  Not surprisingly, the control group (D) showed least improvement.  Surprisingly, however, the control group only improved a little less than groups A and B.

Bandura&Cervone

Goal Setting and Feedback are both vital to great performance

So here’s the deal

Our goal

… is to engage in a dialogue with Management Pocketbook readers and anyone else interested in management.  Over the next six months, we’d like to get to at least 100 readers a week, and we want to get comments on most of our posts.

Your feedback

… is more than welcome.  Let us know what you think of our blogs and our books, and contribute your ideas to supplement ours.  Give us information and ideas, and tell us what you want.

Subscribe to this blog, so you don’t miss any of our posts – we look forward to the conversation.

Reference:
Self-Evaluative and Self-Efficacy Mechanisms Governing the Motivational Effects of Goal Systems,
Albert Bandura and Daniel Cervone,
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1983,
Vol 45, No. 5, 1017-1028

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