Why Feedback Needs to be an Integral Part of the 21st-century Leader’s Arsenal

Why Feedback Needs to be an Integral Part of the 21st-century Leader’s Arsenal

Feedback is, and always has been, essential for growth, collaboration and motivation. Even more so in today’s ever-changing workplace environment. However, unless it is delivered in a way that communicates value, feedback can break down relationships, instil fear and promote disengagement.

Feedback is also a powerful tool that lets employees know how they are progressing. It motivates them and provides insights and suggestions to become their best selves.

Feedback, however, needs to be effective and goal-oriented. Effective feedback is essential for leaders to reach organisational goals by motivating and developing others. There are numerous ways in which feedback can benefit an organisation and an individual if delivered effectively. Goal-oriented feedback focuses on specific behaviour and desired outcomes. This allows employees to take ownership of their behaviour and encourages them to generate pathways towards set objectives.

How Effective Feedback Improves Productivity

One way feedback also impacts an organisation is through productivity. How so depends on its delivery.

If employees feel supported and view feedback as an opportunity for growth and personal development, the results will increase productivity.

On the flip side, if employees’ efforts go unacknowledged, they may feel condemned and demotivated. Feelings of failure can creep in, hampering productivity.

From a psychological point of view, a leader‘s emotions influence the team’s emotional contagion. During a feedback session,  if the employee feels that the leader is unprepared, unstructured, anxious, stressed or worried, the employee will pick up on the leader’s energy consciously or subconsciously, making the exchange ineffective.

Remember that the objective of feedback is to elevate the other person, not bring them down.

Other Benefits of Effective Feedback

We highlighted the impact feedback has on productivity above. But feedback has a rippling effect in other areas as well. Let’s explore a few:

  1. 1. It can provide personal growth and learning opportunities if delivered skillfully in a safe space.
  2. 2. It reinforces positive behaviour by recognising a person’s strengths.
  3. 3. It gives attention and validates an employee’s input. Feedback lets employees know you have been paying attention to what they do and are listening to them, making them feel validated and seen.
  4. 4. It provides an opportunity to discuss desired outcomes. The chance to discuss team and individual goals arise by starting a feedback conversation. The team collectively discusses improvements rather than dictated terms, making the exercise more authentic and collaborative.
  5. 5. It motivates! This is one of the most valuable benefits of effective feedback. Your team will strive to do even better, smashing goals and expectations.

Then Why Are Modern Leaders Still Hesitant to Give Feedback?

Besides the negative cultural stigma attached to giving feedback, most leaders aren’t adequately trained to provide constructive feedback. There are massive downsides to feedback delivered in an ineffective or unstructured manner.

Apart from being counter-productive, it often makes both the giver and the receiver uncomfortable. Conventionally, when one gives or receives feedback, there could be an element of criticism and a tendency to highlight weaknesses. Negative emotions associated with feedback often result in defensive behaviour and disengagement.

How can Leaders Give Better Feedback? 

For starters, a perspective change is required, with managers and teams shifting their mindsets to appreciate feedback as a gift. This perspective shift will make leaders comfortable giving input and employees realising that feedback can be positive and inspiring.

A perspective change doesn’t happen overnight. Concrete steps will have to be taken by organisations to offer leaders suitable training to build the skill of giving feedback and embed the habit within the organisational culture.

Other Strategies for Giving Effective Feedback:

  • Preparation is key. Prepare by writing down observations you have made about the person’s behaviour and work. Remember that the key is to describe the behaviour as precisely as possible. This will eliminate potential “character attacks” and help the individual to recall the particular behaviour from memory. This approach minimises defensive responses.
  • Assess the situation. Based on the nature of the feedback, consider when, where and how it is best to deliver the message. If sensitive,  one-on-one communication may be required. Alternatively, a team setting may work. An inclusive team conversation can have many benefits too.
  • Put away your devices and distractions. It sounds like a “basic” tip, but many people forget. As it’s not respectful to have devices distracting you, clear them away, and be mindful and present.
  • Check in with yourself. Reflect on your life, your current thoughts and your emotions. If your mind is cluttered and pulled in multiple directions, you will come across as distracted, disengaged and disrespectful. Clear your mind, take a walk or listen to music to quiet the thoughts and allow you to anchor yourself in the present before delivering feedback.
  • Co-create a safe space. Creating a safe space is essential to increase receptiveness and openness to feedback. Remember to greet in a  way that makes the other person feel welcome. Take a moment and connect – share an appropriate anecdote or discover a commonality. Whatever it may be, it’s essential to take a moment to create a foundation of safety and supportiveness. Pay attention to your communication style, how it connects with the person you’re communicating with, and how you can accommodate their style. Also, be mindful of what’s happening in the other person’s life and whether they would be receptive to feedback. If the timing needs to be corrected, reschedule.
  • It is a two-way street. Ensure the conversation is balanced. While the leader drives the conversation, the employee must feel supported and validated to be receptive to feedback.
  • Follow-up. Set a date or a time for follow-up conversations. The time may vary depending on the nature of the issue.

Once these steps are in place, the resulting change in the narrative will help build more confident leaders. And as emotions are contagious, this confidence will exude to employees. Ultimately, by providing effective feedback, leaders can not only promote the development and engagement of their employees but also achieve organisational goals.


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