Feedback, what it is and how you’re doing it wrong

Feedback, what it is and how you’re doing it wrong

Once a year you probably get to sit down with the person you report to and they fill out some paperwork full of grades and the occasional note and this constitutes your review. It’s full of what is supposed to be feedback but really, it’s cryptic and amounts to nothing more than a list of your pros and cons.

Arkalgud Ramaprasad, a professor at the University of Illinois, defined feedback in the workplace as information about the gap between the actual level and the reference level of a system parameter which is used to alter the gap in some way.

in layman’s terms, feedback is sharing with someone what they are currently doing and the gap that exists to what they should be doing.

But wait! There’s more to what feedback is

However, he further defines feedback as not just that information but that the information must be usable in order to help the one receiving feedback close that gap.

Have you ever sat in a yearly performance review and had your manager tell you something akin to “Your reports on the committees you sit on are often late, we’d like to see you get them in on time from now on. That is going to be one of your goals moving forward and we’ll review how you did next year.”

Closing the feedback gap

This sort of feedback is next to useless. Sure it identifies the problem but it isn’t going to help the employee close the gap between the current performance (handing in reports late) and the expected performance (handing them in on time).

in fact it’s so deeply coded the employee probably has no idea how to move forward. Should they put off other, potentially more critical work in order to ensure reports are completed on time? Should they work late and submit lieu time? What does it mean?

Annual reviews in itself is a faulty method of providing feedback to your employees and it would be easy to label the one giving the feedback as lazy but the vital gap missing from this process is trust.

Trust your reports

As a leader, your responsibility is to provide potential solutions to your reports and then trust them to carry those solutions out. You should provide a few methods of closing the gap between what they’re doing now and what they should be doing and you should do your best to help them understand the methods you’re describing.

Only after you’ve laid out a few roadmaps to help them to get from A to B will they be able to actually use the information you’ve given them and turn your feedback in to action.

But it’s all for naught if you can’t trust them. Trusting your report to turn your feedback from theory into action means checking in on their progress but refraining from being over their shoulder. It also means you can’t expect the next time you discuss their performance gap, they’ve been able to close it.

A trusting leader will give their reports feedback, options to close the gap and then seek feedback from the report along the way in order to providing coaching and guidance as needed.

Photo by Stean Lins on Flickr

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