Feedback is the most important tool for growth. Without it, we just go through motions and only happen upon success through chance. Without quality feedback, we don’t know what we are doing well and where we are falling short. Feedback is vital if you want success for your team or yourself. Why then do we resist?
We have all seen those who think they are great singers audition for American Idol or those who think they are great athletes fall short. Many of these people have not received any feedback on how to improve or to hone their game; rather, they were just told how good they are. We need quality feedback from qualified people to get better at anything. Look around the next time you are at the gym and watch all the self-taught weight lifters butcher techniques. I know, I was one of them who did this well into my 30’s and then kept getting injured every time I started to make real progress. It wasn’t until I hired a coach that this cycle stopped. He provided constant feedback meant to help me grow.
Why do we think it is ok to only provide career feedback twice a year? Even more, how often is this feedback listened to by the subordinate or even glossed over by the supervisor who is overtasked with administrative duties and prepares haphazardly. There is either an overload of information in an one-hour sitting or a lazy interview using the feedback form. Even if the supervisor hits it out of the park, there is still such a long window of time in between sessions that it is rendered ineffective shorty thereafter. Feedback like this does not help in the long term development of our teams.
Ironically, I am working on this article as I await my “snapshot” meeting with my supervisor. We do these periodically (currently on a monthly cadence) to go over career goals and growth feedback. We also do weekly team meetings where we just basically say what we are working on and how they relate to the overall team goals and priorities. Although, this is not a perfect system, it is a great way to fill that gap between the mandatory twice a year sessions. Monthly check-ins allow for enough time to pass in order to gain some ground on a goal and yet not too much to lose focus or let me get too far down the wrong path. If I were actively working towards a promotion or something big, we would shorten this feedback loop to twice a month or even weekly to attain sufficient mentoring. I have witnessed this strategy working for subpar supervisors and the superstars alike.
About twice a week, friends and readers reach out to me and ask a question about project management (my new career) or Agile. These inquiries really picked up after changing my job title on LinkedIn to Scrum Master. Agile and Scrum are part of the project management world, but there is a lesson in there that is beneficial to leaders. Fast feedback loops are imperative to the success of an any project. The team that can fail or succeed and learn from their actions the fastest can achieve the mission first. In Scrum, we do daily stand-ups lasting 10 minutes where each team member states what they did yesterday, what they are doing today, and any impediments. So often someone will say they are struggling to get something done and another teammate will say they have a template or another found solution. This leverages the team’s experiences and minimizes the learning curve. We fail and succeed rapidly and move forward together.
Imagine building something for six months and then testing it. What if it fails? Then we need to go back and figure out where it failed. It could have been something we did yesterday or on day one. The loss is equal to the length of the feedback loop. In this case six months. Imagine if this were you or a subordinate. We allow them to go six months or longer before truly evaluating their progress towards a personal goal. Now, what if the feedback loop was monthly?
The feedback loop needs to match the amount of loss you’re willing to accept before it hinders the overall goal. When it comes to doing work, we are great at this. Daily production meetings or frequent staff meetings hold each other accountable. However, when it comes to developing our team, we are not. Shorten this loop with your team and you will see them succeed much faster.