Giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important aspects of being a good leader. But many managers and leaders really struggle with this aspect of the job. Here are some of the main reasons why leaders may not be giving regular, consistent feedback.
Why is giving feedback important?
When I run development or coaching programmes for leaders, from team leaders to senior leaders, I ask two questions around feedback. ‘Who here has given feedback in the last day, week, two weeks, month, or 6 months?’. Then, ‘Who as a leader has asked for feedback on their leadership in the last….’. The results are rarely surprising. The majority have not given feedback to employees or sought it from them in the past couple of weeks, and many have not done either in the last month or more.
Employees need and want to be successful. To do this they need to know how they are doing and if they are showing the ‘right’ behaviours. Leaders who don’t give feedback, (‘information’ about behaviour and performance) are denying employees opportunities to develop, thrive and deliver.
I often ask leaders what stops them from delivering regular feedback. Here are some of the most common answers I have received:
Don’t know how
It is surprising the number of leaders I speak to who don’t know how to give meaningful feedback.
They have never been introduced to models, approaches or coaching around how to have a feedback conversation. This means that there is a failure in organisational culture and training.
Confusing praise with feedback
Praise is not feedback. Praise is telling someone ‘good job there.’ Whereas feedback involves giving high-quality information on an aspect of their performance or behaviours.
Yes, feedback often involves praise, but it also explains how employees can further improve upon desired behaviour and performance. And of course, negative feedback is just as important as positive feedback.
Fearful of giving negative feedback
No-one ‘enjoys’ sharing with someone that they are not performing to agreed standards. However, there are simple ways of approaching negative feedback.
When properly trained, leaders are able to make this sharing more palatable and structured. Through this approach, negative feedback leads to a more positive conversation and outcome.
‘Don’t have the time’
Unforgivable! One definition of leadership is ‘achieving with and through other people’. If others are working to achieve for you, then you better find the time to tell them how they are doing.
Interestingly, those managers who use this excuse, when you speak to them further, always manage to find the time for the things they want to do… Hmmm.
Thinking ‘constructive criticism’ is feedback
I never was the best at maths at school, but I remember that a minus times a plus was always a minus. Constructive criticism is criticism, it’s not feedback.
We can offer a balanced critique of an employee’s work, but if we only criticise, they will take it personally. This can lead to poor morale, and general negativity.
Team and organisational culture
The managers you hired will bring their own style to their leadership. However, they will often find themselves having to fit into the system or culture that already exists. Or perhaps they will feel the need to conform to the leadership style of their own leaders and senior managers.
This means that if learned leadership culture is focused on getting the next sale or hitting the next target, giving feedback will only take place during appraisals.
Being autocratic, directive or using a single leadership style is often the go-to approach for newer leaders. However, this tells us more about the agenda and needs of the leader rather than employees.
Using a more supportive leadership style centred around coaching puts more emphasis on the needs of employees. This leadership style is more effective in creating natural opportunities for feedback.
Need more advice on giving feedback?
To abridge a well-known Ken Blanchard quote, ‘feedback is the food of champions’. It is vital for senior managers to encourage the line managers and team leads they have hired to provide regular feedback. You should be encouraging and expect your leaders to be experts in providing high value, insightful feedback to employees who are performing for them every single day. By not providing it, leaders are preventing employees from fully performing and growing.
Among many other training areas, Line manager coaching with Abintus focuses on supporting your managers to provide regular, consistent feedback to their employees. Why not get in touch today to find out how Abintus can help to transform your line managers?
Nick Howell has trained and coached hundreds of leaders to help create and get the best out of those employees in leadership and management roles. He continually gains insight from his interactions, and shares his experiences to enable employees be more effective leaders and managers.