Monday, October 7, 2013

A formula for feedback

This post is by Dione David, who earlier this year was promoted to Team Lead of our Customer Happiness Team.

The Customer Happiness team at Shoes of Prey was not only well-established when I was made team lead - it already had a sterling reputation. The job was never to uproot, but to take a team of winners to the next level. I imagine a chef devising the menu for a new restaurant, armed with only the finest produce, would understand. In reality that “piece of cake” factor is as daunting as it is inspiring.

Unlike my previous experience managing a small team at a certain newspaper, at Shoes of Prey you’re expected to make mistakes, but also to pick yourself up, chalk it down and be better. There’s no crutch of compliance for managers at Shoes of Prey, so I lean instead on the various strengths of my team members, the examples set by more seasoned managers and on self-education.

Lately, I’ve been self-educating on how to effectively provide constructive feedback. This gap in my knowledge became clear after conducting my first end-of-quarter reviews with my team members. Going in, I had an expectation of how it would go. I left the room with a new lesson under my belt: do not mistake expectation for edict.

I thought I'd share with you my key learnings from this article, which draws on the knowledge of clinical associate professor of management at the W. P. Carey School of Business, Minu Ipe.

Firstly, feedback needs to be specific, timely, accurate, actionable and meaningful or STAAM. Nothing surprising there, however Ipe suggests a more measured, four-step process to make constructive feedback more effective.

1) It begins with identifying the objective for giving the feedback. For example, am I hoping to change a behaviour? Effect short-term or long-term behavioral changes? Am I looking to reward good performance or ameliorate poor performance? It seems pretty obvious, but being clear about your objective beforehand is key in enacting useful feedback.

2) Prepare for the review. Managing a team of A Players (resumes that read like a who’s who of overqualification) in what so many people view as a thankless job, constructive feedback has the potential to become the proverbial poisoned apple. It ought to be a seed of opportunity. Preparation should include taking the time to make sure my feedback is STAAM; thinking about my relationship to the person I will be reviewing and tailoring my feedback for that individual; planning ahead for how I will handle any negative reactions; and determining an appropriate place and time to conduct the review.


3) When delivering the actual feedback, I need to avoid using the sandwich approach. Often managers (I fancy, especially green ones like me!) are uncomfortable about giving negative feedback. So we kick off with positive points, dragonfly in with one constructive piece of feedback and scuttle back into discussing positive performance. This method is otherwise known the “feedback sandwich”, although some (less polite) people call it another kind of sandwich. While one school of thought promotes this as a great way of administering positive and negative reinforcement, Ipe recommends being direct and constructive.

4) The last stage is follow-up. The two parties should develop an action plan that incorporates what was discussed during the review, and follow up to make sure the plan is being followed is critical.

With the next round of reviews around the corner, I am reminded feedback is not a one-way street - unless we’re talking Formula 1. Your charge will need to make pit stops along the road of improvement. Never mind how many, never mind if it’s a quick refuel or a tire-change. All that matters is that they pass the checkered flag.*

*Disclaimer: I have never watched a Formula 1 race, and actually have no idea why I chose that analogy.

1 comment:

  1. That's pretty much it. I used to hate the feedback time during my stay on the first company I worked for because most of the times, I don't know what to say. But fast forward, the next company I worked for doesn't care about feedback. They give it but refuse to take one. I bet that "I Pity The Fool" meme is directed at those type of people.

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