Like riding a bike as a life skill

Time for feedback

Helen Amery @wildfigsolns set off a #FeedbackCarnival on Twitter asking for thoughts to answer:

“Feedback would happen all the time if…”

So here’s a simple stab at it:

I was prompted to complete a review for an online purchase. It hurt by the second scroll down. It seemed never-ending. It wanted lots of words. Lots of scoring. Lots about me. Lots of time.

Uncharacteristically, I closed it down. Feedback takes time. But does it have to?

As a big believer in feedback and that people can’t improve if you don’t tell ‘em, I frequently review things when asked. It’s the least I can do for fellow consumers, considering most of my purchases are aided by others; I only book a holiday having consulted Trip Advisor… Who needs evidence that feedback breeds feedback?

Back to that purchase review and feedback taking time: Feedback works like a muscle – it works better the more we use it.

Feedback can take much more time when we’re out of practice – giving it or receiving. When we perceive it as time-consuming we may invest less time in trying, in the absence of a weighty incentive.

In turn, as a rare thing, it becomes a big deal or no deal at all (like many appraisals and annual reviews!) Hence some people experience feedback as an insignificant rarity or a massive negative. Of course, there’s a whole spectrum of experiences between those two too.

Where it’s negative, it still seems to come back to time – insufficient time invested in preparing how the feedback is best going to land with the person – to land appropriately for them to go and do something constructive with it about which they can feel positive. Or perhaps insufficient time in the delivery to clarify (for in future) how to and how not to.

Trust takes time. I knew of someone being asked to give feedback (via a 360 online mechanism) for a senior staff member – but knowing that the ‘subject’ hadn’t been asked or notified. In fact it seems intended to build evidence against a new starter in a Probationary Period. I lurched at the lack of ethics.

It’s rare (I hope) but if blame or reproach are connotations around feedback, then it will take a lot of time to build a feedback culture that is trustable and workable.

Feedback isn’t a one-hit-wonder that we learn in a lunchtime workshop only ever to be mentioned when we do.

It isn’t a culture to be embedded but unsupported.

It isn’t something to be difficult or dreaded.

It’s something we can all do and, as consumers, we already do.

It’s about doing it often and making it easier.

That in itself takes a bit of time.

Perhaps feedback would happen all the time if:

  • We got people to see the incentives in giving and receiving such that they’ll invest some time until it becomes second nature
  • We got people how to see what and how feedback impacts them and to turn those experiences into something they can use
  • We made it clear how simple it can be and the value of feedback snippets (starting small beats none at all)
  • We celebrated those fantastic examples of people throughout organisations who give it without realising they have the art
  • We taught people at all levels how to have comfortable giving and receiving feedback conversations
  • We recognised the speed that feedback gives to getting things done
  • We saw it less as a management skill but as an everybody everyday skill
  • We introduced it early – in schools it could help children to explain to each other how a certain behaviour has had an impact. Why wait to be at work to learn a life skill?

In simple steps. Taking a little time at a time. Helping it to become second-nature, like driving a car or riding a bike. With enthusiasm-breeding, infectious encouragement…

Then maybe feedback would happen all the time, Helen!

(See @wildfigsolns and insightful #FeedbackCarnival contributors on Twitter and contribute to the conversation!)

Feedback much appreciated – comments too – please do.


Other articles you may like:

Hangfire – don’t shoot the messenger!

3 steps to fuller feedback by phone

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