Engagement Practice _ 18: Create a Culture of Continuous Feedback and Coaching

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Some companies have cultures where feedback flows freely and others have

cultures where feedback is kept in reserve, saved for ‘‘a more appropriate

time’’ that never comes, or kept until performance review time and

dumped on the employee all in one sitting. General Electric under Jack

Welch was a constant-feedback culture. As described in Jack: Straight from

the Gut, ‘‘In GE every day, there’s an informal, unspoken personnel review—

in the lunchroom, the hallway, and in every business meeting.’’12

One study found that 64 percent of people prefer informal, on-the-job

conversations with their supervisor over formal interviews.13 Certainly a

frequent-feedback culture is a reflection of a results-driven CEO who

wants to make sure that employees have the feedback they need just in

time to use it and make a difference for customers. The best way to make

sure that feedback is given and received in a meaningful and productive

way, however, is to train all managers in how to give it, and all employees

in how to receive it. Here are some ideas on which to build a positive

feedback culture through training:

Begin with the assumption that every employee is responsible for

getting feedback and not dependent or passively waiting for the manager

to give it.

It is the responsibility of every manager to give timely and frequent

feedback to all employees, but the supervisor is not the sole initiator

of feedback.

Make sure that all managers are trained to understand the essential

conditions for effective feedback—that the feedback giver is credible,

trustworthy, and has good intentions; that the timing and circumstances

are appropriate, the feedback is given in a personal and interactive

manner, and that the message is clear and helpful.14

Include a training module for employees on how to receive feedback

that also encourages them to overcome any resistance they may have

to seeking it.

Emphasize the importance of managers making sure the feedback

they are about to give is accurate before they give it.

Communicate clearly and unequivocally that feedback is not to be

reserved for periodic, formal occasions, but is expected to be given

and sought on an ongoing, continual basis, driven not by the calendar,

but by the situation.

Look for logical times to give feedback to an entire team of people,

such as at the end of a major project.

Stress the importance of overcoming the natural defensiveness that

people have about receiving feedback by giving positive feedback

along with the negative. Encourage employees to build on their

strengths as the preferred strategy for improving performance.

It is not enough to point out shortcomings. Employees need help

figuring out what actions they need to take in order to do better.

Because feedback improperly given can have a negative impact on

performance, training should include time for managers to practice

giving it and employees to practice receiving it.

Along with the training, offer a variety of feedback tools, such as

internal and external customer questionnaires, 360-degree feedback

instruments, and less formal feedback questionnaires.

Make all managers and employees aware of available feedback tools

and training.

Getting the Best Results from 360-Degree Feedback

Many companies have initiated the use of 360-degree, or multirater

feedback that allows employees to receive formal feedback not just

from the boss, but from one’s peers, direct reports, and customers.

The idea is to give employees a fuller picture of how they are perceived

than they can hope to receive only from their direct supervisor.

Most companies with experience using 360-degree feedback are

reporting that best results are generally obtained when:

The feedback is used only for self-development, not for rating

performance or making decisions about pay or promotion.

Employees are given the option of receiving 360-degree feedback,

rather than having it mandated.

Employees are allowed to select the raters in consultation with

the direct supervisor.

There are enough raters to assure anonymity to all raters.

Those to be rated are trained in how to receive feedback.

After receiving the feedback report, employees are encouraged

to seek additional clarifying feedback through follow-up discussions

with raters.