4 rules for strong feedback in the company

How constructive feedback increases productivity and motivation

Feedback is usually unpleasant for both employees and management because they have rarely learned how to deal with feedback and criticism. This article provides important rules and tips for dealing with feedback in the company – including formulation and action examples.

Feedback is fuel that moves the ship and crew forward

Feedback is usually unpleasant for both employees and management. People have rarely learned how to deal with feedback and criticism.

We can only speculate about the reasons. It may have something to do with the fact that in the school system, the emphasis is on mistakes rather than on what has been achieved.

Grades, the feedback classic, thus become a negative trigger – if you’re not one of those straight A candidates. They are the shortening of an individual performance curve to a single, emotionless number.

How’s that in a corporate context?

“Feedback isn’t about lecturing or scolding: it’s about giving employees the information and tools they need to develop their strengths and overcome hurdles.” Quote from Jenny von Podewils, CEO of Leapsome.

In this way, FeedBACK becomes FeedFORWARD, the fuel that carries the team or company ship forward.

In this article, I show important rules and tips for dealing with feedback in the company.

Why feedback is crucial

Feedback has many functions – here is an overview of what feedback can and must do:

Feedback = Orientation

Without feedback, man is lost. Just as every navigation system has fed in information about the terrain, man needs information from outside.

Only through this can he determine his position and find orientation.

Manager A is very proud of his powerful appearance – he calls it presence and sees this as one of his top strengths. Employee B cannot handle this at all. He feels run over by the loud and, in his opinion, insensitive manner. The situation escalates when Manager A gets a Manager C at his side who ticks completely differently. None of the three gave or received feedback.

The feedback could have shown that Manager A is more the type of pioneer who goes ahead and pulls people along. Manager C, on the other hand, is the quiet bookkeeper who ensures safe ground. Employee B would be more willing to perform if he felt noticed and valued.

Thus, performance potential is wasted at all levels.

Feedback = Guardrail Check

Feedback is also an important parameter that reveals whether the shared values are still being lived.

Entrepreneur A attaches great importance to punctuality in his craft business. In return, he is generous when someone has to go to the authorities or deal with family matters at short notice and wants to take time off. Employee B interprets this generosity as meaning that he does not have to be so strict about starting work in the morning. Entrepreneur A shies away from confrontation because he is generally afraid of fluctuation. He gives no feedback and hopes the problem will resolve itself.

The company’s values were developed in an expensive consulting session with a management consultancy. They hang on the wall in the meeting room. Even entrepreneur A cannot name them when asked.

Feedback = Blind Spot Illuminator

People do not see their mistakes, because they are in the middle of them. This is the realization that is as banal as it is important.

Employee A rediscovered her zest for life after her divorce crisis. Since then, she has cultivated an extravagant style of dress. She now likes to wear colorful and flirty, fabric-saving clothing. Her employer, a renowned law firm, finds this inappropriate. A mood-lifting company noodle is not needed and the effect is irritating to clients.

Employee A needs the feedback because she does not see this blind spot in her current life situation.

Feedback = Potential Detector

If you don’t get feedback, you can’t develop further. This also applies to managers, who are usually reluctant to accept feedback from the team.

Feedback - Illustration um Feedback zu geben

Manager A has her meetings under control. The necessary information is requested in a tightly timed manner and new guidelines are issued. She wastes no time on small talk. Efficiency is her middle name.

Her demeanor is perceived as lacking empathy, and resentment and inner resignation spread throughout the team.

She should get the feedback that leadership is first and foremost about people, then about performance. A quick check of the mood in the team, asking how people are doing, would bring the resigned employees back on board.

Empathic, emotional leadership is her deficit. Without feedback, she’s not even aware that she has it. Remember: deficits are potentials in work clothes.

Feedback = Diagnostic Tool for EQ

Feedback is a great tool to test emotional intelligence.

The following scenario is a good example:

Service employee A is on the front line: she works in complaint management. She was recently transferred there as a department manager because she is absolutely fit in terms of product technology and very articulate. What she can’t handle at all are angry people. Despite her expertise, her performance curve is plummeting. Instead of happier employees and customers, she creates new problems by reacting inappropriately emotionally. She needs feedback to get her into an appropriate action where she can improve her emotional competence.

Feedback is THE important diagnostic tool for hidden problems and unrecognized performance hogs. If it is not used, potential is given away and important guardrails are removed.

From FeedBACK to FeedFORWARD

Feedback is not a one-way street. This is important before one of the parties involved is unilaterally declared to be the problem. Two-way feedback always says something about both. And so the result can be very useful for both sides.

Now there is the well-known sandwich feedback. For some, it’s the perfect feedback. For others it is outdated and useless. They understand sandwich feedback as inappropriate and useless sparing. Yet the positive effect of sandwich feedback is well proven, as a study shows. It is significantly more effective than no feedback or non-constructive feedback.

Briefly explained: Sandwich feedback is structured in such a way that the two halves of the bun correspond to a positive message and the meat topping contains the actual criticism.

Sandwich feedback should be called holistic feedback. This is because it contains the whole information. both the negative-fault (error) and positive-constructive (solution) sides of the issue.

There are four simple rules for feedback so that it conveys information in a way that is useful to everyone involved.

Rule 1 – Never give feedback without being asked

Giving feedback to a person without being asked usually does not produce anything good. Only a few people can deal with it openly. Therefore, the most important rule is: ask!

  • “I noticed something, can we talk about it?”
  • “Do you want me to give you feedback on your work?”
  • “Do you want to know what I think about it?”
  • “I don’t want to throw any perspective under the bus, so I want feedback from everyone (on the team).”
  • “There’s something I’ve observed, can we talk about it?”

These are good questions and phrases that open a door. You must and you should, on the other hand, are phrases that close doors.

Rule 2 – Use positive phrases

Decide to use positive language. This makes it easier for the other person to open up. If you accuse with negative formulations, you will reap unconscious or open resistance.

It is better to package the message in a positive way.

It’s not smart to put the competent, cheeky Mr. A in his place with a “Shut the hell up! Putting him in his place with a “Mr. A, we would definitely like to hear your experienced point of view after X has contributed” takes the wind out of his sails and gives the quieter ones a chance to be heard.

You can’t get rid of the miserable, sarcastic negaholic who drags down the whole team with his pessimism with a “Spare us your bad mood! Irritating words like “bad mood” don’t do anything here. Better is a “Is there anything that could cheer you up?” If this situation persists, an understanding inquiry as to what is bothering this person is quite appropriate.

Positive language avoids irritating words like “annoying,” “bothersome,” “unnecessary,” etc. They create negative associations and are more likely to activate inner resistance.

Putting messages into positive language is a leadership skill. Beware of manipulative communication behavior, which is sometimes not even conscious.

Rule 3 – Feedback always contains information

A mere statement of what is not okay is not enough. That is not feedback, that is an accusation. Feedback always contains information about what is and what can be done with it.

Instead of “You always leave the window open!” the feedback from colleague A to colleague B would be better “Fresh air is important. How about if we ventilate twice instead of keeping the window tilted all day?”

Rule 4 – From I to We to You

Let’s stay with the example of the open window in the shared office, co-working space.

Feedback Illustration einer offenen Kultur

Very good feedback might go like this:

“I can see that fresh air is very important to you. That’s exactly how I feel, we both want a clear head and a good atmosphere when working. A suggestion: you could always shock ventilate while we are on coffee break. That would do us both good.”

This is the web from a ME message to a WE statement to a YOU suggestion.

Feedback structured this way will always open a door.

Summary – Positive feedback culture = more productivity

Feedback is not only a leadership tool, it is also an important tool in constructive interaction.

Feedback should also be possible across hierarchies.

The following applies to everyone: very personal, negative feedback should always be given in private and only to the person concerned. Feedback is not an instrument that exposes others.

Feedback as promptly and respectfully as possible: Feedback in an emotionally charged situation is pointless, yet it should not take place too long after the event. Empathy is needed here.

Feedback from employees to leadership: here, a smart question is more purposeful than flat criticism.

Instead of “That was my project work, how do you come to pass that off as yours?” is better: “I’m glad you talked about my project report at the management meeting. Did you inform the management about my name so they can ask me directly about further details?”

Ava Hauser navigiert Führungskräfte durch die Stromschnellen massiven Wandels. Ihr Fokus liegt auf der Selbstführung als Basis für erfolgreiches Führen. Mit über 20 Jahren Erfahrung als Coach, Trainer, Speaker und Therapeutin hat sie ein Programm entwickelt, das Menschen stark macht - nicht nur für Führungsaufgaben.

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