Leadership Excellence: The Feedback Challenge

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 27th Mar 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Business>Leadership

One aspect of leadership is the ability to provide feedback to others that work with you. Truth is people want to know when they perform well but can you, the leader, provide effective feedback? This is the first of a two-part series covering precisely this challenge.

Two Part Series

This is the first of a two-part series about the leadership challenge associated with providing feedback to team members, this article looks at:

  • How problems happen
  • The need to create objectives, and
  • An insight into understanding others

and he next article will cover:

Have You Done Something Well?

Don't you want to know when you have done something well? Truth is we all want to know how we performed, whether we are doing well or poorly, it allows us to change the next time we tackle the problem and perhaps we can do it just a little better. If we believe in our ability to change for the better then having effective feedback is essential. In any team environment then feedback is also essential, and one of the key words here is 'effective', because ineffective feedback helps no-one.

In the workplace one area that consistently gives both managers and employees difficulty is the need to give and accept feedback, truth is leaders need to ensure their teams are effective at tackling any challenges they face and at the same time individuals do have a whole range of needs from needing to be left alone to the need to feel that they are contributing appropriately. As you will have probably experienced there is often a divergence between the needs of the team (as defined by the manager or supervisor) and that of the individuals and a good leader has to balance these demands, desires, goals, visions and understanding in order to make the team more efficient at tackling the problems or issues they face. In some respects this is based on the need to focus on common aims and objectives, but on the other hand this is about getting the job done – remember the workplace differs from other organisations because there is a job to be completed and there is a structure in place that is designed to make this happen.

In business this is just part of normal operations and it is essential to get the job done in the most effective way yet in our social organisations, like church groups, sporting teams, scouting groups, and even self-learning groups like Toastmasters good teamwork is also essential and helping others is one of the ways in which we can personally grow. The feedback every person receives help them achieve their personal goals, which helps them grow.

How Problems Happen

Before looking at feedback specifically it is important to have an understanding of how things can go wrong and the truth is that every person that has ever lived has made a mistake at some point in their life, but some people seem to be doomed to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, clever people aim to learn from their errors, whilst dumb people are doomed to fail over and over again. Assuming you have the knowledge and training to perform the task you are doing then generally there are three types of errors we make:

  1. Real mistakes – when, in work terms, we perform the wrong process
  2. Black outs, when part of the process is forgotten and
  3. Slip-ups, when the right process is performed incorrectly

The truth is that in life there are many different levels where we may make a mistake and this is when it is possible to compound a series of errors that can ultimately result in a disaster occurring and fortunately the majority of the time our human survival instinct kicks in to ensure we correct the problem we are facing. An error is somewhat like the hole in a slice of Swiss cheese. A hole in a single layer, such as not having enough chicken meals on a flight acts as an annoyance to those affected by it, but in the overall view it has limited scope, especially when it is not possible to do anything about it, at best it can give the flight crew a lesson for the next flight.

Like the Swiss cheese that has holes that permeate through several layers are where the big problems occur, especially when holes line up across several dimensions. On the first layer the pilot of a plane reacts to a technical fault that occurs on the flight deck of an airliner, they take a particular course of action having mis-diagnosed the problem faced, but having taken a wrong step the problem is compounded by the fact that the co-pilot does not notice that the original diagnosis was wrong and it is only much later when they come to this realisation and attempt to re-diagnose the problem then during the course of re-starting the control panel which temporarily turned off the communications array and in the process and was unable to receive the turn and climb instructions from air traffic control which causes the plane to continue of the wrong flight path and crash, instead of easily averting danger at the appropriate time.

Creating Objectives

In order to know how you are improving it is essential to have objectives and performance markers against which your actions can be measured. Setting objectives is something that should be done well in advance of the activity for which feedback is required.

With the majority of work environments most people have clear and concise objectives to achieve during the course of their normal work, for example the staff in the finance department must complete all monthly processing by an agreed date in order that all period end processing and reconciliation can be completed, these dates will be known to everyone in the department and they will religiously abide by them. Often these milestones are either defined during the course of employment or will be set out at regular reviews; but it important to recognise that over time people do take on new responsibilities and objectives in the course of their employment and relinquish other parts of their role but normally goals and objectives are agreed with their supervisors or managers at regular intervals.

In a social organisations the objectives are not so easily seen, but people will nonetheless have personal aims and goals with which others may be able to help, discussion with others in the group can provide mentorship in any situation which can help each member reach their objectives, both short and long term.
Generally it is recognised objectives they should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic and
  • Timely

They are specific in that they are clear, precise and well defined and are able to be understood by all people involved. They should be measurable in a way that a person performing the task has a defined scope and knows how a task can be defined as complete. A goal is achievable in that it is within a person's abilities to reach that goal, even where they will stretch the limits of their capabilities to a new high. It is realistic in the sense that they have the time and resources necessary to achieve that goal. All goals should be set against a specific time-frame as there is nothing that focuses attention or desire like time. There is one other important comment about objectives and this is that they should be written down as a written objective which is far more likely to be achieved than one verbally communicated to.

An Insight into Understanding Others

Is there a magic trick to knowing others? It would be nice to think there was, but the truth is there is not any easy way to say you to understand another person, and as soon as you think you have them figured them out they throw you a "curve ball" and the process starts all over again. The only effective way to know them is by constant communications, checking and re-checking your shared understanding of any situation.

Generally we are accustomed to understanding things according to certain sets of rules, initially we must develop a basic knowledge of concepts or ideas, yet it can be very different when understanding people yet people are the basic foundation for ideas, so within this context we need to get to grips with their intentions and motivations because it is these that will drive their desires and much of what they do, or intend to. None of us is an island, we all need to interact with others in our daily lives and in communicating our desires will always help others understand the quintessential you, and this remains an on-going challenge whatever the situation.

Communication is one of the key reasons for creating objectives, in order firstly highlight and communicate your aims and then know that they are able to achieve their goals, however it would be foolish to assume you know everything the other person is looking to achieve through, some things will never have been discussed, no matter how good your working relationship.

One time many years ago I had a performance review at a critical time in my chosen career path, beforehand I planned out where I saw the future for me, unfortunately my boss had different ideas. he saw me as being good at A, B, and C which he expected me to continue working on as an expert in the field, yet I told him I was looking to do X, Y, and Z in the future - it was something he had never considered I would be interested in and he stated that he knew of no way that my role could be changed to encompass these skills, six months later X, Y and Z were the skills that I was using, but sadly it was only possible by leaving the company and moving on to a new company that had a different focus. I remain on good terms to this day with my former boss and we have collaborated on several projects since that time but we also know that there has to be clarity in order to work effectively together.

Continue now to part two, Leadership Excellence: Providing Effective Feedback

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Curve Ball, Danger, Doing Well, Done Something Well, Easily Averting Danger, Feedback, How Well Have You Performed, Leadership, Mentor, Mentoring, Mistake, Mistakes, Providing Feedback, Shared Understanding

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
27th Mar 2013 (#)

Very well said Peter...my compliments to you...

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
27th Mar 2013 (#)

This gives us much food for thought Peter. Thank you .
Bless you

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author avatar Kingwell
27th Mar 2013 (#)

So much wisdom here. Thank you for sharing.

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author avatar C.D. Moore
28th Mar 2013 (#)

An impressive article in style and content.

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author avatar M G Singh
28th Mar 2013 (#)

wonderful write up. I wonder what you think of Field Marshal Viscount William Slim who stated" a leader drives his men all the time"

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author avatar Delicia Powers
28th Mar 2013 (#)

thanks Peter a very informative and thought filled article...

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author avatar Buzz
29th Mar 2013 (#)

Loved this article, Peter. Here's wishing you and family a Happy Easter.

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