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The Importance of Feedback

Giving effective feedback doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

By
Lisa B. Marshall,
September 10, 2010
Episode #038

Page 1 of 2

We all want feedback. I want feedback from my customers (and from you, the readers) so that I can improve. My clients pay me for my feedback so they can improve. And my kids need feedback so they know how to behave. We all need frequent feedback.

Feedback from others is the fastest way to improve. It’s how we learn and excel. Feedback motivates us and helps us to make course corrections. I'll admit that sometimes feedback isn't exactly what we expect and can sting, but ultimately it’s what helps us grow and improve. Today we'll discuss why it's important to provide feedback (and how), then next week we'll talk about how to react to negative feedback.

What’s with the Lack of Feedback?

Though most people need and want regular feedback most people don’t get regular feedback. The problem is that most of us are hesitant to give it. We’re reluctant to give feedback that isn’t all positive even if it’s constructive. As humans we want others to like us. We've been taught that if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all.

But that doesn't help us get any better.

Another problem is that we've all been on the receiving end of what I call "angry criticism" which is isn't feedback at all. It's just getting yelled at. Obviously, when you angrily deliver "feedback" to help YOURSELF feel better, it’s not motivating for the person receiving the message.

Feedback Motivates Behaviors

It’s critically important to understand that the MAIN idea behind feedback is to MOTIVATE behavior. That's so important I'm going to say it again. The MAIN idea behind feedback is to MOTIVATE BEHAVIOR. That is, positive feedback should encourage someone to keep doing certain behaviors, while corrective feedback should motivates him or her to change behaviors. And notice I didn't say motivate a person, I said motivate behavior. The goal is to get someone to act or react differently under certain circumstances. You’re not asking them to be a different person.

It’s critical to understand that the main idea behind feedback is to MOTIVATE behavior. That's so important I'm going to say it again. The main idea behind feedback is to MOTIVATE BEHAVIOR.

So the first tip is to encourage you to make a commitment to give more feedback to those around you. Commit to regular two-way feedback in your professional life and your personal life. It shows you care and you’re interested in helping the people around you.

At work, build a culture that values feedback. Reinforce that everyone deserves feedback and that providing feedback is a primary function of a supervisor.  Many managers resist. They'll say, "I don't have time for feedback" or "I'm not comfortable delivering feedback."

But delivering regular feedback doesn't take more than a few minutes and it certainly doesn't have to be difficult or hurtful. In fact, if you do it effectively, it's quick, comfortable, and often welcomed. The best part is that regular feedback creates a supportive environment built on trust. And the people around you will improve and become more satisfied because they are being coached to do better.

So, let's talk about the dos and don’ts of delivering effective feedback.

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