What really is the value of feedback?


Happy new year everyone!Happy New Year

I hope 2019 brings you health and well-being, happiness, peace, fun, inspiration and success!

I also hope it brings you and us all lots of opportunities to get better at feedback. Both giving and receiving it. When I developed my motto ‘fun, focus and feedback, I didn’t expect that this third word would weigh so heavily not only in my life but in my practice and that of people I support.

Feedback seems like its a formality; Such a small thing and yet is can be so powerful that it is a heresy to ignore it.

Feedback (Credits: Denise Krebs / FlickR)
The power of feedback (Credits: Denise Krebs / FlickR)

This year offers a great opportunity for me to work on feedback too as I’m developing a plan with some colleagues to strengthen the culture of giving and receiving feedback in that organisation.

And on that note, let me share fragments of a rationale for feedback:

[start of segment]

Feedback is a crucial source of learning

Receiving feedback is a great way to understand both what one is doing very well (and should keep doing) and which ‘improvables’ someone has. How ‘what we do’ is received by others is not always known or apparent to us. Feedback makes those unclear or hidden effects come to the fore. It is thus a great way to get us out of ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and to be more intentional on behaviours and activities that matter.

In the process we potentially improve in a number of ways:

  • In our technical skills and expertise (knowing what works and what doesn’t);
  • In our communication skills and understanding of each other;
  • In the way our individual role and responsibilities impacts collective performance.

Not only is this a useful source for individual development, but it is also a very welcome boost to the entire group (or organisation)’s ability to cope with fast changing conditions. A fast-paced world requires short feedback loops that help any collective of people track the direction of things in a more conscious manner.

It is all the more normal that interpersonal feedback contributes to this ability to see opportunities and risks more quickly.

Feedback thus makes business sense.

Mutual feedback is a powerful source of trust

The practice of giving and receiving feedback is not straightforward. A lot of sensitive interpersonal dynamics is involved in it. And that is beneficial for ourselves as individuals and as a whole collective:

  • Accepting and showing our vulnerability develops our humility and empathy – essential proxies for developing trust, a critical driver of high performing teams;
  • Being able to talk about problems helps us being uncompromising with the issues we really need to focus on, and can develop our sense of solidarity towards the challenges we face;
  • Acknowledging mistakes or even failures, accepting one’s share of responsibility and the consequences of ‘incidents’ we have caused fasten our learning and create an environment where progressively everyone becomes mutually accountable;

In addition, for the people giving feedback, the very act of giving feedback stimulates:

  • Using sharper language – which leads to becoming clearer on where we put our intent and efforts;
  • Not shying away from difficult conversations – even if that can take some time to build up;
  • Our own creativity to find constructive solutions to the behavioral issues we are seeing in ourselves and around us.

[end of segment]

Thanks for the feedback
Thanks for the feedback

It comes as no surprise then that the excellent ‘Thanks for the feedback…’ has become one of the cornerstone books in this effort.

The really helpful premise of this book is that it focuses not so much on how we give feedback but on how we receive it and how we can get much better at that.

Kudos and thank you to Nelli Noakes from Community At Work for sharing this book with me and for being my coach on Group Facilitation Skills, which is the track that definitely ensured feedback was going to remain an important theme of my working (and personal) life.

Now I can only encourage you to read the book, practice your giving and receiving feedback and also doing that with me on this blog and elsewhere 🙂

And my best wishes for this new year again!

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Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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