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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #93
(September 22, 2020)

How Some Employees HIJACK Your FEEDBACK (and what to do about it) [Part 1]

When the electric guitar first became popular, any musician who caused feedback while playing was seen as an inexperienced amateur. Enter Jimi Hendrix. His style of guitar playing was vastly different from any rock artist that lived before him—he magnified the 'vocabulary' of the electric guitar and (purposefully) coaxed all manner of sounds ... including innovative experiments that produced extraordinary feedback. Regardless of your musical tastes, you must admit that Mr. Hendrix made feedback very popular.

I'm using this story as a way to position a major concern I have about how some employees react to managerial feedback. It's not every employee; some seek out your feedback and embrace your constructive criticism with enthusiasm. Others, however, leave the impression that they are fed up with your feedback—and the resulting behavioral manifestations are too numerous to mention.

My doctoral dissertation topic focused on employee feedback receptivity and employee motivation to use feedback. Since graduating, and largely based on the work I do with management teams, I'm witnessing an unhealthy trend ... people are becoming less receptive to feedback and much more sensitive to any form of criticism. This creates a major challenge for managers striving to build high performing teams.

Because of the immense complexities surrounding this topic, I'm going to dedicate one CORE Bites issue each month over the next three months to one aspect of feedback receptivity. If you think that sounds like a lot of information for a single topic, my dissertation took two years—there's a lot more to creating a culture of feedback receptivity than might be immediately obvious.

The topics over the next three months will include:

  1. Delivering feedback when people are stressed out and under pressure (today's topic).
  2. The (significant) impact of Vulnerable Narcissism and hypersensitivity on feedback receptivity.
  3. When the 'How You Say It' is the problem.

My goal with this series of articles is to make you (vis-à-vis Jimi Hendrix) the managerial Rock Star of Feedback.

[If you're interested (or just plain curious) in taking a glance through my dissertation, here is a link.]

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

The pandemic, and subsequent WFH mandates, have seriously disrupted millions of employees. As a consequence, many people are struggling to bring some balance and order back into their lives. Not surprisingly, these new pressures and stressors have 'shortened the fuse' and adversely impacted feedback receptivity. Effective managers know they need to modify the how, when, and what as it pertains to their feedback strategy. This week (starting today) try including these techniques into your feedback approach—it's still possible to use feedback as a positive driver to help employees grow and become more productive.

  • Increase the Frequency: Without normal proximity to each other, it's important to increase the number of feedback touchpoints that you provide. This is true for both positive feedback and feedback of a more critical nature. While some people advocate a blended version where both positive and critical feedback are provided during the same session, I find this approach to be very ineffective and often confusing to the employee. When you deliver solid—and frequent—feedback (e.g., AFR), employees come to know that you not only notice, but that you appreciate, the work they're doing. In a sense, this gives you 'permission' to occasionally discuss with the employee work that is substandard; a behavior that needs to be modified; or an attitude that needs to be adjusted. It's the balance (and ratio) that makes the difference.
  • Change the What: Because remote working for many employees is new, there are also new and creative reasons to give feedback. For example, expand your feedback horizon by providing feedback about collaborative working behaviors and activities that accomplish solid outcomes (in spite of the 'remoteness' of the team); recognize the small contributions and concessions that employees make to allow the team to function more effectively; and, because the expectations you used in the past to assess performance in the office aren't as relevant anymore, modify your feedback to focus more on results with a particular focus on 'how' the results are accomplished.
  • Fearless Feedback: Some employees have an innate fear of feedback. Frequently, this is the result of poorly handled criticism in their past. Feedback Conditioning is a process I use to introduce more frequent conversations about workplace performance. The first step in this conditioning process is to ensure that critical feedback is positioned as learning and not some failing on the part of the employee. Discussing (together) options to overcome obstacles will lead to better results. Try eliminating negative language such as "you shouldn't" or "don't do" during these sessions to help employees feel more comfortable and open to your suggestions/input.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"The two words ‘information' and ‘communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through."

— Sydney J. Harris —