Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The power of feedback

Feedback is essential. Not just Feedback: but constructive feedback! We all know this, but do we really put it into practice every day?

Everybody recognizes that no work is done without a team and teams rely on people that need orientation. Nowadays, we even use "buzz words" like 360-degree evaluations which are based in a full 360-degree feedback input (if it's good or bad that's another topic). So, feedback plays a particularly important role in teams and individuals. It's a key element to a continuous improvement process because it's supposed to direct efforts towards improvements.

But how to give feedback? Where should you focus your feedback? How to be assertive and direct peoples efforts to the right track? There are 3 basic levels of focus:

  1. Task level
    – The focus is on a task, something an individual has to do;
    – It's where the focus should be and where there's higher margin to enable improvements;
    – Example: Feedback about writing a Word document.

  2. Learning level
    – The focus is on behaviours, something an individual can learn to improve daily processes;
    – Useful if it can lead to a better behavior in order to perform a task. Efficacy;
    – Example: Feedback about posture in a business meeting.

  3. Self
    – Dangerous: high probability of emotional reactions;
    – Comparison with the "ideal person" is a red flag;
    – Example: Feedback about the person's intelligence.

This is theory, but let's see examples (of negative feedback):

   "You're late. You're lazy. This can't happen again."
   "If you could be here 10 minutes earlier it would be great. It would allow us to talk more before the meeting and that would be awesome."

In the first quote, the focus is on the self. He's not the perfect stereotype, he's lazy. Now, turning tables, in the second quote the focus is no longer on the Self but on behavior. Yet, the message is the same: you're late!

   "You don't know how to work with Powerpoint."
   "Why not do a Powerpoint workshop? It would be of great value to your daily tasks and you could help us even more."

Can you pick on the difference? The first sentence is totally focused on the Self. The second has the exact same topic, the exact same problem, but now the focus is at the task level.

These two examples are a deviation of framing techniques: people react in different ways depending on how the information is presented to them. The Framing effect is actually more specific and even more interesting. Take a closer look at the "Research" topic in the WikiPage. Humans...