Ken Blanchard once said, 'Feedback is the breakfast of champions' and after our recent feedback from you, I feel like a champion – thank you!
Imagine my delight when my Managing Director shared with me the results of Exponential’s latest customer survey and I found out that 84% of my students rated the support I provided to them, as their personal tutor, as 'excellent'. I was almost (but not quite) overwhelmed to find out that 99% of my students rated the feedback I provide to them on their assignments as 'very good or excellent'.
Being receptive to and then acting on feedback is integral to Exponential’s approach to learning, developing and improving performance. Whether I give the feedback face-to-face, on-line during a tutorial or in a e-mail, I am always conscious that the feedback is merely the tool to help someone to improve their assignment or performance – feedback without action is pointless.
Let me give you some examples of how my colleagues and I have used some of the feedback that you have given us to improve our performance:
So what? This feedback made us realise that we have few learning resources exploring how to set up a business and therefore our development team has already started to research the new material we need to develop to better meet the needs of a tenth of our customers.
So what? This finding has prompted a discussion resulting in an action plan to review, up-grade and improve our learning support materials – right now lots of new video-based tutorials are being recorded bringing a new dimension to how we share knowledge and ideas.
So what? This prompted our Business Development Manager, James Dillon, to research how many students did make repeat purchases and how many students had referred others to Exponential. We now have a mini project under way to see how we can make better use of the our customer’s ‘warm feelings’ to help grow our business still further.
So what? This feedback is important as Exponential aims to provide ‘flexible, affordable, professional accreditation’. When drafting new marketing messages, the team will emphasise the flexibility and international recognition of our qualifications.
So what? The way Exponential delivers its distance learning qualifications is through one-to-one support and on-line tutorials. This is one of our main differentiators, setting us apart from most competitors and is how we are able to make such an impact on our students' performance in their job roles. We need to showcase this benefit more than we do currently – watch this space!
Now giving and receiving feedback can stir up all kinds of self-doubt, defensiveness and conflicts, especially when handled poorly. It is irrelevant whether the feedback is from your partner, a friend, a colleague or your manager; it is never easy to hear about your shortcomings.
But I think about feedback differently. For my colleagues and I at Exponential, feedback is not about pointing out others’ weaknesses; it is about helping to uncover and deal with challenges and issues that might be impairing performance, growth and development. The metaphor I like to use is operating without feedback is like driving a car with no speedometer or sense of direction – you never know where you are or when you will arrive at your destination.
Unfortunately, many organisations do not train people on how to give or receive feedback - knowing how to accept and act on feedback is as important as being able to provide effective feedback. I am sure that at some point, you have been on the receiving end of vague, unnecessarily negative feedback, with no clear plan for improvement. However, if delivered in the right way, feedback can be a positive and transformative process.
Top Tips for Planning & Giving Feedback:
Top Tip 1: Don't make it an annual event
Little and often, regular and informal, planned and unplanned, but do not limit feedback to annual performance reviews or major one-off activities
Top Tip 2: Never ever wing It
You only get once chance to have your feedback heard before it is judged, accepted or rejected so, choose the the words you use carefully. You might even like to practice what you are going to say and how you plan to say it. Make sure your feedback is fair, accurate and delivered in a positive and constructive manner.
Top Tip 3: Tell it like it is – no worse and no better
Yes always try to look for and focus on the positive, but you owe it to both of you to be honest by telling it like it is, ‘no worse and no better’. Avoid 'dressing' things up and just ‘cherry picking’ the best or the worst.
Top Tip 4: Keep it confidential
Feedback should be a private affair, so never share the conversation with someone else as you will lose the trust and respect of the person to whom you gave the feedback and the person with whom you shared the feedback.
Top Tip 5: Make it bite-sized portions
Most people can only process so much feedback at once. If you practice Top Tip 1, you will avoid having to provide too much feedback at any one time.
Top Tip 6: Be specific
What is the point of being vague. You need to tell it like it is, no worse and no better. Be clear and specific and illustrate your feedback with practical examples. Make it clear what you have observed and what you what to happen. You do not want a team member to be ‘more punctual’, you want them 'to arrive on time ready to start work'!
Top Tip 7 If it’s serious, say so
Re-visit Top Tip 3. Be clear and if it needs to be said, then say it. Avoid threats and ‘toxic’ or inflammatory language, but do point out potential consequences and sanction where and as appropriate. Choose the right language, tone, time and location for feedback.
Top Tip 8: Keep calm!
Keep your emotions under control. Nothing is to be gained by allowing inappropriate emotions to dominate you, as what you say is likely to be skewed by your feelings rather than your head and logic. Feedback should be delivered when you are in your 'adult ego state' and NOT one of your 'child or parental ego states'. If you are not sure what I mean then look out for the next 'In the Loop'.
Top Tip 9: Try thinking of feedback as a gift
When you receive feedback, think of it as a gift. Look for the sentiment and value behind the gift rather than just the gift itself. Likewise, when giving feedback, consider how you would prefer to receive help, support, praise and constructive criticism. What is your sentiment and what is the value of your gift – to make something easier for the person, to remove a barrier to improved performance; to praise and reward them, to encourage more or less of a specific behaviour? Help them to see the value and your sentiment.
Top Tip 10: Make feedback a habit
Just like breakfast which sets up the day, so too can feedback. People like to have feedback, especially if it makes them feel good and helps them to grow and become more than they are now. By using Top Tip 1, you build your reputation for someone who is honest, trustworthy and always there to help and support others – you can become a champion!