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Feedback: It’s Not Just for Performance Reviews Anymore

How do you feel about feedback? What comes to mind?

In many organizations, feedback is simply part of an annual or semi-annual ritual where leaders deliver the somewhat uncomfortable news to an unsuspecting employee. It’s a top-down exercise that many leaders–and employees–dislike.

But feedback can be much, much more. It can redefine your leadership dynamic and how you and your team relate—if you change your perspective.   

Feedback is, first and foremost, a catalyst for growth. It’s a critical change agent that moves your leadership from level 2 to level 3 on the 5 Levels of Leadership. Level 2 focuses on the relationships you build with members of your team. It’s a natural fit for something as personal as providing feedback.

Level 3 is about production, so the role of feedback is easy to minimize. The truth is production requires a constant feedback loop to refine and improve performance. With that loop comes momentum, results and, ultimately, growth for both you and your team.

It’s understandable if providing feedback feels uncomfortable. Many of us were taught to equate feedback with criticism.

But the two are not the same.

Constructive feedback is a way to show those around you that you care about them, that you’re invested in their success and helping them achieve it. This kind of feedback helps others see their blind spots, and gives your team permission to do the same for you. That’s what feedback is all about.

Because continual feedback is the key to clarity, communication and trust, here are a few tips to ensure you practice it well:

Remember that feedback is a two-way street, both in direction and application

It’s critically important that you not only give feedback, but that you also ask for it–and do both regularly. Feedback should be an ongoing dialog properly balanced between positive reinforcement and identifying areas for improvement.

If you are unsure if a certain piece of feedback will be viewed as negative, don’t put the conversation off. Procrastination simply turns an uncomfortable conversation into a conflict, leaving the person distrustful of you and guarded against future feedback conversations.

Follow a simple model for successful feedback

So how can you provide balanced feedback to your team? We’ve found that the “Start-Stop-Keep” model works very well to shape an effective feedback conversation.

Focus on the answers to these questions:

  • What should I start doing that would make both myself and my team more effective?

  • What should I stop doing is keeping us from being effective?

  • What should I keep doing to help us be effective?

Frame your feedback within these categories, and then ask for the answers to these questions about your own performance.

Make it spontaneous

To reiterate what we said earlier, feedback should not be limited to stuffy, rigid, well-scheduled performance reviews. Feedback should be able to live in the moment.

Think about getting off a sales call with an employee. Is there an opportunity to tell that person what they did well during the call? Is there an area for improvement? Being mindful of your team’s growth in the moment is a great way to help feedback become a positive expectation.

What do you think?

Finally, make it a point to follow it a feedback conversation with “What do you think?”

This question is a powerful feedback tool because it creates a deeper conversation. Asking for input shows that you’re providing feedback because you actually care, and it opens up the opportunity for the recipient to share their perspective and motivations.

A genuine two-way dialog can open the door for both parties to understand crucial context that helps clarify decisions and build deeper trust (and competence) in the future.

Feedback is more than an item to tick off the to-do list. It’s a gift you can use to grow closer with your team by building stronger connections that drive everyone’s performance—including yours—to greater heights.