Organizations only improve when individuals improve. People simply cannot improve without feedback. Most people and most organizations struggle because the only thing harder than giving good feedback is receiving it.
Jason Lauritsen recently wrote a great post titled “Flipping the Script on Feedback”. Lots of interesting points about feedback, but what really struck me was his comment: …teach people how to receive [feedback] rather than spending so much time worrying about the way in which your managers deliver it.
I was struck by what a friend used to call a blinding flash of the obvious. Duh! We spend all this time trying to teach managers to deliver feedback well – which is important – and miss the most crucial link. If the employee is not good at receiving feedback, it doesn’t matter how well it’s delivered. If they are good at receiving it, then they will still try to benefit from it even if the delivery is poor. Obviously, training on giving and receiving feedback isn’t mutually exclusive, but his post serves as an important reminder that both sides of the equation are important.
As I think about it, I wonder why organizations don’t place much, much greater emphasis on developing every employee and manager to be truly great at giving and receiving feedback. After all, we will never (read as: NEVER) create a high performing organization, department, team, family, etc. without the ability to honestly give and learn from feedback. It’s a pretty straightforward equation: the more receptive to feedback (data) we are, the more people share ideas and information with us, the better the information we have, the better the decisions we make and actions we take, the better results we get. AND the better we are able to assess, evaluate, revise and improve.
I suspect that downplaying or dismissing the importance of feedback is simply another symptom of the misguided belief that business results are somehow separate from the people in the business.
Better people = better results. Period.