By Lisa Cefali on Monday, 07 August 2017
Category: Organizational Insights

Communicating with feedback – a powerful tool!

I attended a wedding this weekend which was very touching and beautiful. It had all the elements that one would imagine with family, friends, and an outdoor ceremony encompassing tradition and modern day inclusions that made the event even more personal to the bride and groom. The bridesmaids and groomsmen were elegantly dressed, the bride and groom were stunning and as the evening continued on with the celebration of their union, there were speeches sprinkled throughout the multi-course meal and dancing into the wee hours.

The speeches were an opportunity to get to know the bride and groom better and from different perspectives. As always, the groom appears to get ‘roasted’ a bit more than the bride ever does at these occasions, by his best friend, and in this case the groom’s brother, but through it all, the pokes were given in love and with best wishes for the future. In the bride’s speech, she expressed her wishes for her marriage to the groom in a way that struck me as being unique, yet essential, and at the same time, in a ways that is rarely mentioned in a wedding speech….a wish for effective communication. What a great addition of something so obvious, but so necessary and crucial to making a marriage or any relationship work!

We can never have too much communication. Not to be interpreted as you are allowed to drone on – there are occasions, where people simply talk too much. However the opportunity to have better and more communication can only help relationships in the workplace. We hear that Millennials want to be included in knowing what’s going on. Actually, everyone wants to know more of what is going on. Gone are the days where announcements are made by companies, they tell their employees to stay tuned and go about the day, and the world continues to move effectively.

Wait a minute…there are still companies that do this!! Employees then end up churning in ambiguity and coming to their own conclusions, increasing their own stress and impacting company performance, negatively. Yes, we want to know if something is going to impact us. We want to have the chance to make a change; to decide for ourselves if we can accept the change, or simply prepare for it. Employees simply want to be kept in the loop, no matter how small the update, but until the ‘change’ is complete, constant communication is crucial.

What about everyday communication? How can we improve day to day communication, when there is no drastic strategic directional change? After all, this is the communication that will better prepare everyone, when and if, the business changes. In fact, the most basic form of communication that we do not spend enough time on is feedback. Yes, we have newsletters and updates which provide information outward –from the executive team, from the project manager, from the lead to the employees. Most companies also have a performance review process – which often is limited to once a year and can be rigid to the point that the successes get diluted by the one or two areas of improvement.

Two communication approaches I have been a part of over the years, and highly recommend, can be very useful in being able to incorporate feedback and improved communication amongst teams or individuals and are both very simple to introduce without too much difficulty – even for the most introverted of personalities.

The first approach I was introduced to is loosely called: “Feedback is a Gift – See it, Say it in 48 Hours.”

Feedback is a Gift – See it, Say it in 48 Hours.

The concept with this feedback process was that feedback should be accepted and given as if it were a gift. Insight into your own performance should be welcomed so that you can build upon the success that has been reinforced as well as improve upon the areas that have room for improvement. The intention is that as you see someone do or say something really impressive, let them know you thought so, within 48 hours, as it is that much more impactful. Rather than waiting for the yearly review, this approach allows people to understand the everyday impact they are making on simple, everyday tasks. This is also very effective, where the employee does not report into you or if it is a co-worker who extends positive feedback. This is a gift! It is not expected and provides recognition across various groups throughout the organization where collaboration occurs, but their formal reporting structures do not exist. Waiting longer than 48 hours, reduces the impact of the success as everyone is so busy that everyone has quite likely moved to another initiative, task, or fire, beyond the 48 hours!

With feedback that is more constructive or negative, the 48 hours allows the giver of the ‘gift’ to take the first 24 hours to organize the feedback in such a way that it is not emotional and can be built upon in a positive way. Then, in the next 24 hours, relay the information to the individual, if it is still valid and constructive. By waiting the 24 hours, which is similar to the approach that all hockey parents are asked to consider when relaying feedback to their child’s coach, it allows the giver to really check him/herself with the value of the feedback and the best way to provide it so that it is truly is seen as positive, once received. This approach is not to be seen as a free ticket to dump on people; which if done too quickly or without thought, no one truly benefits. The giver is simply viewed as being negative and the receiver is left in shock and without a way to effectively accept and build upon the feedback.

The 2nd communication approach is very good in providing feedback with a team after a project is complete or at a pre-defined point in time. This approach is loosely titled as, "What’s Working, What’s Not Working and What’s Missing."

What’s Working, What’s Not Working and What’s Missing

You begin with ’What’s Working’ - listing out everything that is working well with the person, the team, or the initiative. You celebrate these! This list should be long, relevant and detailed. The next listing is ‘What’s Not Working’ – looking at what exists (people, processes, resources, technologies) that are simply not working well, or the way they should be. This is the list that needs simple modifications that will create larger, impactful improvements. Finally, you move to ‘What’s Missing’ – a listing of people, processes, technologies, or resources that don’t exist at all, but are necessary and relevant for future projects or for the current initiative that has hit a wall of some sort and is stalled. The items on this list are not as easy to introduce and may need more budget dollars, time, and approvals or work in development. However, whether the listing is personal or for a team or for an initiative, the concepts are all the same. Successes can be celebrated, short term improvements can be made and longer term planning can take place to introduce new direction or skills sets.

The ability to improve communication by providing feedback is powerful. It requires thought and must be purposeful. Providing feedback on a planned and continual process ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to communication with each other. So, no matter the relationship, that of manager to employee or co-worker to co- worker, or friend to friend, or partner to partner, improving communication through feedback provides a foundation to the relationship that can then withstand future direction requirements and future change.

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