As a leader, you need your team to not only perform but to improve over time. Why? Because today’s performance won’t meet tomorrow’s expectations. Competitors get tougher, customers want more – the bar is continually being raised.
So what is one of the most effective ways to help your people improve? Provide meaningful feedback.
One of the biggest misconceptions about performance is that by doing something repetitively we automatically get better. That by gaining experience we automatically improve. Yet I’m reminded of what my doctoral supervisor used to say: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent!” Repetition alone isn’t enough to improve.
Have you ever gone bowling? If every time you threw a ball the lights were to go out, you couldn’t see or hear what happened to the pins, and no score was shown, how much better would you get? You wouldn’t. The only reason you get better is because of feedback. Associating what it feels like to throw the ball with what it looks like rolling down the alley, what happens to the pins, and the score that results.
We don’t learn by doing. We learn by processing the feedback we receive from doing. And while some types of feedback are self-evident or can be automated, others require an insightful leader. What makes a leader’s feedback meaningful? It has to be SMART feedback: specific, measurable, accurate, relevant, and timely. The better your feedback meets those criteria, the more meaningful it will be.
Let’s be clear. The purpose of feedback is not to spotlight what was done “wrong”. The purpose is to accelerate improvement. By analyzing what was done (well or not), what resulted, and why. And by describing (and/or showing) what adjustments need to be made, and why.
Yet it’s not enough to give feedback; you need willing recipients. People who not only want feedback but ask for feedback. People with the ambition to learn, grow and improve.
Think of it this way: Without feedback, your people gain experience. With feedback, they gain expertise. That’s why meaningful feedback is like gold.
Make it happen.
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