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The importance of helpful feedback

Monday, June 4, 2018 - 06:00
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My goal today is to provide insight on how to give and receive feedback in a way that allows you to grow and possibly most importantly, create a dynamic that establishes a relationship between you and your team members that will produce a synergy taking everyone, including your business, to a much higher level.

In North Carolina, law enforcement was looking for ways to slow drivers down in school zones. Their studies found drivers traveling at 20 miles per hour need about 65 feet to stop, which means there’s not much time to avoid hitting a child. They posted what is referred to as driver feedback signs and found after installing speed radar signs, or driver feedback signs, there was a 57 percent reduction in school zone speeding. Immediate feedback, immediate results.  

The same is true for us in business. If we want to grow our businesses, we need a culture that embraces giving and receiving feedback.  

In a study discussed in the book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, 63 percent of employees surveyed say the biggest challenge for effective performance management is that their manager lacks the courage and ability to have difficult conversations. Yet 90 percent of managers rank themselves in the top 10 percent of managers. The key to personal or professional growth is honest, helpful feedback. We all have blind spots in every area of our life. Maybe it is we don’t realize how we talk to people. In our mind, it is calling it like it is, but in the receiver’s mind, it is condescending and hurtful. David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell, said "The road to self-insight runs through other people." Learning to give and receive helpful feedback is key.   

It is the timely, honest, helpful feedback that is critical to our business. There are three types of feedback we give: Appreciation, Coaching and Evaluation. What we don’t want to do is wait to give our feedback at annual evaluations. Improvements and growth will not happen in this type of environment.  

The first type of feedback we should be giving is appreciation. Most people want to know that what they do matters, and they are appreciated. Vague appreciation does not translate into encouragement. When we give typical feedback, we are pointing out the 110 detailed items that are not done right; yet, when showing appreciation, we think “good job” should suffice. Appreciation should be given in a manner that the receiver values. Gary Chapman makes this point in his book, The 5 Love Languages. Everyone has a different language. Some value words of affirmation while others see a bonus in their paycheck as a demonstration of appreciation. Get to know your team members, learn how they receive appreciation and watch performance grow.  

It is impossible for the leader of the company (in larger organizations) to demonstrate appreciation to everyone in the organization. This is one of the important reasons it is vital to have a culture of giving and receiving feedback. Every manager and leader should be giving feedback to their teams, showing appreciation, coaching and giving evaluations.  

The next type of feedback is coaching. Coaching can become frustrating for the coach and team member if it is not received well or not given in the manner that the receiver understands. Appreciation should always precede coaching. No one ever receives feedback well from someone they do not like or trust. There must be a foundation to coach effectively.  

Coaching is a lot more than simply giving data to someone. For example, one thing that is important to our business is 100 percent disassembly in the repair planning phase. If this is not done, it creates bottlenecks, delays, stress and frustration throughout the entire repair process. For us to achieve 100 percent disassembly, we must coach our team effectively. An ineffective form of coaching on this would be for me to simply go to our repair planners and disassembly technicians and give them data on how they have failed to produce 100 percent disassembly and show them all the delays it has caused. A better form of coaching includes consistent reviews of disassembled vehicles and estimates, then providing one to two coaching points each week to our repair planning team on how to improve. If I were to give more than a couple coaching points each week, it will be overwhelming and unattainable. Take a couple things each week and work on them. When you revisit the next week, always celebrate the improvements, no matter how small. It is important to point out the successes and celebrate them. The purpose to coaching is to help people grow, improve and become successful.  

Another important factor in coaching is discussing impact versus intention. I do not believe there are people who intentionally do things wrong. If you have someone in your organization who is intentionally sabotaging performance, that is an entirely different conversation. Most people do not realize the impact of their mistakes, inactions or wrong decisions. It is important to communicate the impact and not assume wrong intentions. For example, if we do not do a complete disassembly of a vehicle during repair planning, there is a significant negative impact on our customer (delays), our parts departments (additional ordering and posting invoices), our customer service team (chasing down supplements at the end of the repair), accounting department (reconciling additional invoices and statements), cash flow (delayed supplement payments) and on and on.  

The last type of feedback is evaluation. Appreciation and coaching should always come before evaluation time. The purpose of an evaluation is to give feedback as to how the team member is performing within the organization and have open dialogue to ensure expectations are aligned. If you wait to coach until annual evaluation time, you are months too late. In addition, this should not be the first time a team member hears appreciation or how they are doing within the company. Great organizations create a culture of healthy feedback.  

Leaders should also be willing and receptive to receive feedback from team members. Andy Stanley said, “Leaders who do not listen to others will eventually surround themselves with people who do not have anything to say.” The best feedback is about what we do, not who we are. It is about performance and actions, not about identity.  

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