Feedback would happen all the time if we spoke the truth with positive intent
This blog post is my contribution to the #FeedbackCarnival being curated by Helen Amery, inviting us to complete the sentence ‘Feedback would happen all the time if…’
Feedback seems to be one of those incredibly simple things that people find incredibly hard to do. My belief is that feedback would happen all the time if we simply spoke the truth with positive intent.
Personally, I don’t think feedback is as difficult as we seem to make out. Admittedly, I’m in a job where I’m paid to speak the truth. As a coach, I’ll never tell you what you want to hear. If you’re clear on what success looks like and what you need to do but you’re not doing it, I’ll tell you. If you’re kidding yourself about something, I’ll point it out to you. If I’m coaching a team who will all speak the truth to me but won’t speak the truth to each other, I will point it out. Giving feedback is easy for me as speaking the truth is part of my job. Mind you, I suspect it is also part of yours.
If we view feedback as speaking the truth with positive intent, then it isn’t a manifesto for rudeness. Rather, it is a manifesto for truth. It leads to us providing lots of positive reinforcement and appreciation as well as having what might seem like more difficult conversations.
Feedback plays a huge role in driving performance. At the HR Directors Business Summit, I blogged about a session where Jas Hawker (a former Red Arrows team leader) talked about the power of the debrief:
Jas talked about the single most important process in driving the Red Arrows’ performance; the debrief. Whilst we can learn lots from success, the can learn so much from failure even though it can be more difficult to harvest the learning with many things (culture, time etc.) getting in the way. The Red Arrows debrief after every performance, even though they might be doing 15 performances each week. We watched a video of a debrief and there were a number of characteristics that shone through:
It started with the leader being totally honest, admitting openly to mistakes, and setting a climate in which the rest of the team would do the same.
The debrief was very factual, not focusing on excuses, but deliberately taking the position of independent observer of their own performance (and using video to help this). The team had the same brutal honesty about their own performance that you would expect from an external observer.
Jas shared an experience of having a General flying with the team and them making an error during the flight. Despite the seniority, the debrief involved the same level of feedback to the General about the error and the required learning. If you’re going to debrief fully, this needs to involve everybody on the team.
Feedback is important to performance. My plea is this; speak the truth with positive intent. To others as well as yourself. After all, it might well be part of your job.