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Sunday, 14 October 2018

Retweet, Like, Share? We Need More Meaningful Feedback!

Social media has led us into the mistaken belief that "retweet", the “like” and “share” are genuine feedback whereas they are not much more than the “mine is bigger than yours” syndrome.

In much the same vein all my members give numerical feedback ratings and comments on the speaker’s presentation as well as their satisfaction with their Vistage experience.

I always emphasise that while the numerical assessment is useful, the real feedback of value will be found in the comments.

Trawling back through an archive of more than 500 blog posts I was slightly surprised (and pleased) to discover that I had not posted a blog on the subject of feedback.

Pleased I was because after nine years of Ivan’s Blog finding new and different topics is becoming more and more taxing.

It is always a pleasure to have feedback on the blog and I enjoy wading past the spam comments to discover what my readers really think about it.

If I am called upon to give feedback to one of the members of my Vistage CEO peer group then I like to give it some thought before committing myself.  The point is that feedback can be anywhere on the destructive/constructive continuum and pitching it correctly seems to be a black art.

Feedback, obviously, can be destructive if,as happens so frequently, it is tinged with reprimand.  On the other hand it is said that we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. How then as leaders can we pitch the feedback to be honest without being destructive and wholly negative?

I am a great fan of TV cookery programmes one of which is The Great British Menu where chefs compete for their dish to be selected for a major culinary event.

In the early stages three high end chefs are judged by another usually veteran on each of their dishes and the feedback (pardon the pun) can be both hugely complementary and/or brutal.

Take a look at the delivery of the judgements and learn how not to give feedback.  Typically the judge will say something like “I loved presentation, the sauce was delicious, there was a range of textures.......”. and then comes the killer word, BUT...followed by criticism.

The reaction of the chefs being judged is fascinating. Their body language is there for every viewer to see, going from pleasure and surprise to misery as soon as they hear the dreaded BUT……

I accept absolutely that this is an artificial environment but just ask yourself, how often do we give feedback like that?

Most good feedback, if it is totally honest will have negative and positive components. Not many people come to a one-to-one to hear nothing but praise or nothing but complaints about their attitude or behaviour.

We are dealing with complex organisms called people and we need to adjust our input to cater for the many and varied aspects of their (and our ) needs.

However on a simple note remember the chef example. Consider whether we should start off with praise or the need for improvement.  Solicit their feedback on a regular basis so that we, as leaders, can better understand complex situations that inevitably arise.

Above all, if we give critical feedback then we are entitled to expect a change in attitude and/or behaviour which will be checked on a regular basis.

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg suggested that recognition and reward by praise are major factors in motivating the team whereas other factors such as salary and the working environment have little or no effect.

Simply because as leaders we are expected to offer a motivational environment to the team we can use feedback that is evidence based to help people to change.

There is no other satisfactory way. We can’t change people or even expect them to change unless we give them an environment in which they can change IF THEY SO DESIRE.

Great, honest feedback is the best starting point.

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