Updated: Dec 3, 2019
I've never been particularly good at receiving performance feedback from my superiors. As someone who is 60/40 on the introvert to extrovert scale, I am constantly assessing myself in order to improve and progress, so when I have to submit myself to a leader's feedback it can be an arduous process. I have a tendency to only halfway listen to positive feedback and actually have been known to argue with my bosses over negative feedback if I disagree with a particular comment or example. I take feedback from my bosses too literally and personally in the first instance which is why the push back. I can only imagine how exhausting it can be to give feedback to someone like me.
Amazingly, my approach to receiving feedback from peers or people working under me is completely different. I love getting feedback in these sessions because it usually deals with ways of working or my communications style and I never take the comments personally. I try to assimilate the feedback immediately and make the necessary adjustments. I hold onto the nuggets of insight and use them to continuously improve. I find that I am most hungry for this sort of feedback as it really adds value to my day to day as a leader.
So what is the disconnect in my approach to superior led feedback versus peer or subordinate led feedback? I think it has to do with the fact that in the former situation I feel I am justifying a grade or merit whereas in the latter I am simply looking to improve.
Basically, my attitude toward the two experiences is completely different.
And as I continue to give both informal and formal feedback to team members I see this difference in attitude manifest all the time.
The simple fact is that not all feedback is given and received alike.
But is it possible to harmonize the two distinct types of feedback so that an employee receives and aligns with the justification for their rating, but also is open enough to take away the nuggets of coaching and adjust to improve future performance? It's not only possible, it is necessary. If not you will continue to experience a disconnect with your people with consequences of diminished motivation, reduced productivity, and perhaps even increased attrition.
So with this in mind, I have begun challenging myself to transform formal feedback sessions (mid-year/end of year) into a more informal construct that allows me the best opportunity to coach. As a leader, I care about rewarding and recognizing performance, identifying areas of improvement, minimizing any derailers, and putting my colleague in their strength zone - and a rating process should not get in the way of this happening.
The rating should be a natural extension and lag measure of all the feedback received and work the colleague has invested in his or herself.
With that said, I submit to you my C.A.R.E. model for giving great informal and formal feedback:
C: Continuous - The first step to transforming your colleague's receptivity toward feedback is the frequency with which you deliver it. If you only give feedback twice a year and always in the context of some future rating then the likelihood of the colleague fully accepting your coaching is dramatically reduced versus if you are constantly involved in a dialogue about what they are doing well and how they can improve. Then the formal sessions truly become extensions of a dialogue about how they can be the best version of themselves.
A: Actionable - Every time you give feedback, the recipient should leave with clear next steps as to what they need to do that day, week, or month to drive their areas of strength and minimize areas of weakness. To paraphrase an old adage - if the feedback is not actionable than you should keep it to yourself!
R: Relevant - Once the first two conditions are met, then relevance becomes increasingly important. Just as feedback needs to be actionable, it also needs to be immediately applicable to current situations the colleague is experiencing. The more relevant the feedback the higher the likelihood it will be implemented. That means you need to use as many specific examples as possible to land your points and then you need to listen to the colleagues interpretation of the situation and help them better navigate these types of situations in the future (if it's a derailer) or how to use their strengths to even greater affect.
E: Expectations - A colleague should never have to guess as to what is expected of them in a given situation or in their role overall. Feedback is a fantastic way to continuously calibrate expectations so there are no surprises at the end of the day when the ratings are revealed. Also, you need to be open to receiving feedback as to whether you are delivering on their expectations of you as their leader. Have you provided the required support, guidance, and push to achieve the best performance? It is at this point that feedback transforms from a one-way exchange into a process that can transform your business.
The key to making this model work is preparation. You have to be strongly connected to what your people are doing in order to satisfy the requirements of the model. And more importantly, you simply have to really CARE!
What are your thoughts on the C.A.R.E. feedback model? How do you reconcile between the 2 types of feedback (informal/formal)? Please let us know in the comments. And please like or share this article if you took something positive away.
Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams available for purchase in ebook or print on Amazon.com. Please follow him on instagram, twitter, and/or LinkedIn for more information and engagement.