Last year, in Nigeria, I delivered a maths lesson to 30 managers in The Central Bank of Nigeria. Now, it wasn’t my intention to do this, in fact the purpose of my visit was to deliver sparkling presentation skills to the 30 managers. Non-the-less, I like to take every opportunity to enlighten busy managers when it comes to those key competencies that will enhance the working lives of those around them.
Feedback is one of those competencies that, if done well, will increase performance of the team and individuals beyond belief! Feedback is also a much misunderstood skill. I would also go so far as to say that it is vastly underestimated as a tool for increasing performance within teams and individuals.
The word Feedback has so many negative connotations in our minds, that receiving feedback is usually framed in the negative. The maths lesson involved me talking to them about giving positive feedback in a way that the recipient will value, use and be enthused. Whilst talking through the issues around feedback, I embarked upon the five times table on a flip chart.
You know what I mean.. 1×5=5, 2×5=10 etc. Then I arrived at 5×5=26
At the same time, I said to the group, (remember I am having a full-scale conversation with them about feedback at the very same time), that it is important to put your feedback into positive terms. A number of the group rushed to be helpful by pointing out my “mistake”, telling me that I had made an error. They had fallen into my trap!
They had rushed to judge me and help me in equal measure. However they didn’t give me any positive feedback to demonstrate empathy regarding my hard work at that moment. I had, in fact, got many things correct in my five times table, which was not noted at the point of feedback. How many times do we correct the mistakes of others, without empathising first with their hard work?
If we are always picking up on mistakes, who is there to affirm the positive behaviours? Also, the very people who do the most, make the most mistakes! They may well learn not to do so much!
Call to action: Show empathy when giving feedback, using phrases such as: “ I know how hard you have worked on this….” “You are a valuable member of the team…”
Deliver negative feedback sparingly and gently.
Be hard on the issues and soft on the person
Do it as often as you can!
Have your best week ever
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