Monday, October 18, 2010

Feedback or Strokes?

Part of our job as leaders is to give feedback, and most of the people I meet don’t receive nor give as much feedback as they want. The feedback they give and/or receive is not of the quality they want.

I believe that one of the problems is that we don’t distinguish between ”strokes” and “feedback” – and we don’t know HOW to give and receive feedback effectively.

Here are a couple of points to improve the feedback culture in your team:

  • Know the difference between strokes and feedback – they are both important!
  • Take assessments out of feedback - keep feedback factual and give it as close to the action as possible
  • Demand feedback yourself
Most people want to hear that they do a good job, they want to cheered on, they want to hear “Great job, Frode”, “Hurrah”, “that was an awesome slam dunk”. It makes us feel good and it increases positivity in the team. I call these strokes and we should do more of it.

It is NOT feedback.

Feedback is a reaction or response to a behavior or an action. The receiver chooses how to use the feedback.

Example: You hire a trainer to improve your driving on icy roads. You go to a track and your car slides in the first left turn and goes off the tarmac.

  • Not useful. The trainer says: “No, no Frode, that was not good, I saw you panic there - you have to keep the back of the car from sliding”.
  • Useful: The Trainer says: “When you came into the curve you kept turning the steering wheel to the left. This caused the car’s back wheels to slide out. I suggest that you turn the wheel to the right (against the turn) if you notice that the car is slipping’.

Why is this more useful?

  • There were no assessments
    No need to defend yourself: “No, I wasn’t panicking!”
  • The feedback was based on observation only and not interpretations
    “kept turning the steering wheel” vs. “saw you panic”
  • Clear description of the effect of what you did
    “…the car’s back wheels slid…”
  • Clear suggestion
Sounds easy? Well, it’s SIMPLE, not always easy – it’s SO easy to put our interpretations into our feedback and we only risk that the receiver gets defensive. Stay factual.

Here’s the good news:

If you start giving more feedback and train – which means asking the receiver how your feedback was (what could be improved) - then you get two for one:

You quickly get better at giving feedback AND you create a feedback culture in your team.

Both are good.

1 comment:

  1. I like the term "strokes", it is what you do to you dog in it kind of expects you to do it to him. But there is no learning experience from it. Feedback on the other hand is more constructive and precise. Strokes are nice and they make you feel good, feedback on the other hand guides you towards continuous improvement.