Originally Published on LinkedIn.

Who likes feedback? I do! The unanimous response. Every time!

Every time I ask that question in a workshop, or a keynote the questions is always answered positively.

So, I allow silence. I allow the group to sit with the response. And wait.

And I often don’t have to wait too long.

“When it’s good”.

Some brave soul almost always pipes up, it generally gets some laughs and we move on. I usually follow up by asking when the group last received feedback. Silence ensues, some will say their last performance review, some will get indignant that don’t receive positive feedback, others just shrug their shoulders and come out with the time- worn statement, that they must be doing ok because they don’t hear anything. How sad is that? The ability to provide courageous feedback is limited.

My final question follows. “When did you last give feedback?” I often get a mixed review here. Some are adamant they deliver, while most go silent.

At best, feedback is delivered and received inconsistently

Every study indicates positive feedback improves employee engagement and performance within your business. While studies showcase that success is driven from having clear feedback protocols, experience tells us it is still a problem. Why is this?

We love feedback, when it’s good. But when we look at the internal mechanisms behind our need for feedback, positive feedback doesn’t provide everything we need. In fact, while it’s important to understand specifically what we have done well, it’s vital for our success and the success of the business, to know what we can do to improve. We need feedback, the nuts and bolts, the good and the bad, the positive and the constructive.

And that’s the problem.

The feedback we get, when it’s positive, is mostly general in nature and the constructive stuff we don’t get, until it’s too late. An environment for courageous feedback is paramount.

And that’s bad. And it’s not just for the people you lead either. In a previous post, Coaching Courage, I spoke about leaders needing to coach courage in their inner circle to ensure they get the feedback they need to drive better individual and company performance. But often this isn’t the case and we see leaders surrounded by journey corporates, yes-people and under the radar, go with the flow type leaders. And that must change. it doesn’t matter where you are in an organisation, you can make the change.

it’s awesome we have academics and researchers doing great work in areas of leadership and performance improvement, yet often this work gets glossed over or complicated and we miss the effective measures that drive change. I love simplicity, and the simpler we can make things, the greater chance we have of achieving sustainable success. The greater chance we have for attaining courageous feedback.

Here’s my simple guide to feedback. Start the process today by implementing these three simple rules in your business team and watch the quality of the feedback improve and with it the performance.

Courageous Feedback

1.     Implement the “Feedback Rules”

A positive role model leader I had, shared these simple rules with me and they have always stuck with me. When someone wants to give, me feedback I:

  •       Smile
  •       Listen
  •       Say thanks.

Simple isn’t it.  By responding to feedback in that way, you remove one of the impediments to feedback being given. Many leaders won’t give feedback because they aren’t sure of the response of the person getting the feedback, so instead of putting time and effort into delivery, they simply don’t deliver it as it is just too much trouble.  Which misses the whole point! The feedback is designed for the person getting the feedback as they are the ones that benefit. But they don’t get it, so how can they benefit? So instead, I teach people how to receive the feedback, and we smile, listen and say thanks. This sounds so simple and it is, but the impact is incredible. It allows a process to share feedback and provides time and space to digest the feedback. BOOM!

2.     Create the environment for feedback.

A leader I knew well, would often blow up whenever he had bad feedback. He would “shoot the messenger” and then wondered why he didn’t receive feedback especially from his team. One day a brave report, his operations manager, provided some feedback and was then “shot” with defensive mastery. Wounded, the operations manager continued, “Why do you say you want feedback, yet every time I give it, you blow up?”. As I said, he was a brave leader, and this question caused the manager to stop, pause and reflect. All the excuses came out:  poor timing, it’s always bad, defensive reactions to challenging his perception.  But internally the manager knew he was the problem and his words and actions didn’t align. He agreed, it had to stop.

Together they worked on a solution. Every time they wanted to provide feedback a simple question was asked. “Are you open for some feedback?” If either party was not receptive, they had the options of re-scheduling the time, or to deal with it.

The change was remarkable. Instead of the blow-ups and defensiveness, simply by asking the question, both parties took a breath, opened their awareness and created the environment for the feedback to be delivered. And then they would smile, listen and say thanks, or work through the feedback as two composed leaders. If I hadn’t witnessed this myself, I would never have believed it, but the change in the performance of both leaders was remarkable. It truly was the pivotal point in what became a great leadership relationship, one which saw both leaders promoted and remain close confidantes to this day.

3.     Deeply believe that feedback is a gift.

I mentioned earlier that feedback is often delivered general in nature, or worse delivered in the guise of sarcasm. Now I couldn’t think of anything worse, and I shudder at my own recollections as I gained maturity as a leader. I know feedback is a gift, a gift the other person needs, even though they may not realise it. Specific positive feedback lifts and reinforces the behaviours, efforts and actions you want to continue seeing, while constructive feedback allows for the recipient to work on areas where they may have missed the mark. When you believe feedback is a gift, take the time to prepare and deliver it appropriately for the best benefit of the team member receiving the gift. Delivering courageous feedback becomes simpler to deliver when we treat the feedback as a gift.

There you have it. Three simple rules, or concepts that will deliver an effective feedback in your team or business. Coach these procedures within your team and you will truly become unstoppable, unbeatable and always ready for the next challenge.

I guarantee that when you implement the three steps outlined above, you take steps in the right direction in creating a high-performance culture driven through learning. I look forward to your improved results.

Tony Curl is the coach behind Think and Grow Business. He helps businesses around Australia improve their culture by building leadership capability. he loves helping crate the environment for courageous feedback. He can be contacted to help your business by emailing tony@tagb.com.au or by 0417 197 149