Think back to a time when you felt lost at work. Perhaps you weren’t clear on a project guideline or expectations on how to succeed, perhaps you walked into a performance review and were blindsided with a critical comment. Likely you were missing some crucial guidance, some understanding of the expectations. You were probably desperate for some feedback on your performance. Yet also, perhaps you were afraid to ask for or receive that feedback before that meeting occurred.
Make it a conversation habit
When employees only receive feedback when something is wrong, they can develop a Pavlovian-like response. The mere mention of “feedback” can send the pulse running and the mind racing. That’s why it is so critical for managers to give feedback informally, on a day to day, context-to-context basis. Feedback is simply a conversation tool for managers to help people go where they want to go. It’s a way to provide somebody with more guidance, to say, “Yes, do more of this,” or, “This thing you did was not successful – can you try something else?” Whether affirmative or constructive, just the practice of exchanging feedback can set employees and managers up for more open, productive conversations that lead to fewer surprises in the long run.
Make it about ‘how to succeed’
Feedback provides consistent checkpoints on the map of expectations. When delivered in a specific, behaviorally based way, it helps an employee to understand what is working, what isn’t, and where they contribute value. It can also provide evidence of performance success, leading to development conversations that progress an employee’s career, or it can document evidence for a performance conversation, to steer an employee away from complacency or decline. Specificity is key here- feedback needs to contain examples of exactly how the person hit or missed the mark.
Consistently delivering feedback is a practice that all managers need to develop. Make it a goal to deliver one piece of feedback, whether positive or constructive, to every member of your team today. And tomorrow. And the next day. Write it on your to-do list, add a calendar reminder, or put a sticky note on your computer- do whatever you need to do to build that habit. Over time you’ll see your team start to perform more to your expectations because now they know where they are – or aren’t – hitting the mark.
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