Who never felt frustrated when cooperating in a team, or after having submitted a significant piece of work, for not having received or exchanged any feedback?
Having timely-triggered, constructive, collaborative and action-oriented feedback session as well as knowing how to receive feedback is not self-evident but can be learned. Moreover social- and cognitive-science has demonstrated that positive feedback loops have a strong positive impact on individual and team performance.
Therefore, what are the keys to establishing effective feedbacks that improve team cooperation and experience?
1. What is the right timing to ask or give feedback?
Feedback has a purpose of learning and continuous improvement process. It can be used in different situations to praise, coach or evaluate. Researchers from Standford University in California showed that a critical success factor for feedback effectiveness is that it should be timely and frequent.
Best-case, feedback should be provided within 24-hours after the targeted observation in order to be fresh in everyone's memory. It makes the discussion more specific, concrete and impactful. Frequent feedback also drives better results for two reasons: similar to the timeliness, they focus the purpose but also generate a habit about sharing feedbacks, providing a secure and positive context for all everyone.
2. How to provide constructive feedback?
Feedback is not about providing a judgment but inviting for a productive discussion. It provides team members with an opportunity to generate a constructive and objective dialogue by getting rid of individual bias through the exchange of multiple perspectives on how to improve.
Feedback should not aim at keeping everyone in its comfort zone but to create a context of confidence and safety to generate productive discussions.
“When you did [...], it made me feel [...]. In the future, I would recommend that you do [...]"
McKinsey, a consulting company, has developed a model to provide structured and effective feedback. According to the model, feedbacks should be:
- Specific and fact-based: The more specific the example, the more vivid and memorable the feedback. Being fact-based keeps the feedback from feeling too personal to the recipient
- Non-personal and irrefutable: They should not target the person and don’t provide any opportunity for the discussion to derail
- Actionable: Leading to concrete results in the future and therefore, include a specific recommendation for a future behavior or action
3. Why feedback is a collaborative and co-constructive process?
Too often, a feedbacks are pictured as an uni-directional process. That should not be the case. Feedbacks are forward-oriented (some people use the term “feedforward”) interaction that binds both, the giver and the taker, to improve future outputs. Without collaboration, alignment, and psychological reciprocity, the feedback will be lost (i.e. not taken into account) and the virtuous cycle that has been initiated will be broken: no more feedback will be exchanged.
Sharing feedback really means working together to find solutions for a given situation.
4. How to steer a fruitful feedback discussion?
Asking for an opinion while having a strong pre-defined fixed idea of what to do is not a best practice. Feedback is not meat to provide confirmation or validation. At the opposite, outcomes might be open. Therefore, it is important to steer but not trying to force the conversation.
As mentioned earlier, providing a recommendation is critical to engage the discussion (short or long) and generate a concrete outcome. Asking closed questions and deep diving on a specific topic also helps to maintain a focused discussion.
5. Can we learn to receive feedback?
It is normal that getting feedback triggers emotions and acceptance issues. However, being emotional about feedback prevent to benefit from it and from the positive outcomes that it can generate.
Introspection is a challenging exercise for everyone in the first place. Subjectivity and personal bias act as cognitive barriers from the outside, especially when discussed matters are related to us. Receiving feedback is not a straightforward exercise but need to be heard, understood and accepted.
Behavioral scientists have identified three triggers that are conditioning our reaction to feedback: truth trigger (feedbacks provide you new indication about how the world sees you), relationship triggers (how the context of my relationship with the other person influences my perception of the feedback) and identify triggers (how the feedback confronts with my values and what is dear to me).
Acknowledging these reaction triggers is a critical step to accept feedback and therefore maximizing their benefits for individuals, team, and in fine organizations.