No, not that one, I was thinking about feedback.

Feedback is basically a form of guidance and in a work setting it is typically given by one person to another with the aim being that it results in reinforcement or improvements of behaviours. Feedback is often thought of in three ways, positive, negative and constructive and is one of the main ways that managers can impact on the performance of their teams, that said feedback can also be between peers or can come from clients and customers. In addition, feedback can, and should, be a mechanism for communicating both up and down the company structure and a positive business culture will encourage this.

Recent research from PwC highlights that nearly 60% of employees would prefer to receive feedback on a regular basis (either every day or every week) and this is something that businesses need to think about.

According to Colin Baker in his June 2022 article for Leaders.com there are 7 types of feedback that typically occur in a working environment, Baker advocates that a mixture of these types should be used depending on the particular circumstances and what works best for each employee and their personality.

  1. Appreciation feedback
  2. Guidance feedback
  3. Encouragement feedback
  4. Forward feedback
  5. Coaching feedback
  6. Informal feedback
  7. Formal feedback

Kim Scott, a former director at Google, though wants to see a shift in how feedback is given. Scott believes in using a method of feedback that she has called, “radical candor”. Yes it sounds very American, but don’t dismiss it out of hand on that basis alone. Her approach comes from personal experience when having delivered what she thought was a great presentation her boss took her to one side and gave her some feedback.

The feedback was delivered in what many know as the sh*t sandwich style. Her boss started out by praising the work in general terms but then got around to the actual thrust of the feedback which was that she had noticed that Scott had said “um” regularly during the presentation. Initially this was brushed off several times by Scott, but then as she recalls her boss said, “‘You know, Kim, I can tell I’m not really getting through to you. I’m going to have to be clearer here. When you say um every third word, it makes you sound stupid”.

Scott believes that her boss was right to be so direct and her choice of words and how this radical candor was delivered was exactly what she needed to hear. They had a positive relationship, Scott knew that her boss cared about her personally due to previous actions and so this feedback was coming from a good place. Her boss also didn’t personalise the feedback and this helped Scott to develop her definition of radical candor, “Radical candor is humble, it’s helpful, it’s immediate, it’s in person—in private if it’s criticism and in public if it’s praise—and it doesn’t personalize.” That last P makes a key distinction: “My boss didn’t say, ‘You’re stupid.’ She said, ‘You sounded stupid when you said um.’ There’s a big difference between the two”. If you want to find out more about this approach I’d recommend reading, Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss | First Round Review

Being so direct will not be to everyone’s liking or personal style and feedback should always be delivered authentically and sensitively if needed. Sir Alex Ferguson was famous for calling underperforming players out in the dressing room and delivering what was known as the hairdryer treatment but he knew his players inside out. Ferguson knew that some players would not react well and he wouldn’t get the level of performance he wanted from them by being openly critical and so with some individuals he would take them aside and be more of a father figure with an arm around their shoulder in order to get the best out of them.

Whatever style you choose to deliver feedback, it is important to actually do it. If things are going well tell someone, if things aren’t going well then they’re not going to improve if nothing is said and ultimately if that happens you are failing the employee as much as they might be failing the business. And if you aren’t convinced by that then I’ll leave you with the words of Bill Gates, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve”.

Do you have questions about feedback and communicating with employees?

Give us a call at CUBE HR on 01282 678321, we’ll be happy to advise you and we have policies and templates available to meet every HR need.

Why not check out our blog on a similar topic 360 degree feedback.

We also have a YouTube channel with loads of handy videos.