Sunday, December 1, 2013

Do You Value Feedback?

Cindy McCauley and Michael Wakefield highlight how “honest feedback is vital to effective talent management systems. Without positive feedback, good performers may lose motivation. Without receiving constructive criticism, poor performers never learn where they fall short and are unlikely to improve. Giving and receiving such valuable feedback is an essential way that you can contribute to your organization's talent development.”
But as much as organisations need to understand the importance of giving feedback and the correct ways of doing it – individual employees need to adopt a mindset that isn’t just open to receiving feedback but one that actually craves feedback – which means that if the feedback isn’t forthcoming that they actually go and look for it.
This doesn’t mean taking an egocentric or aggressive approach to seeking feedback – as this approach will be counter productive. It means seeking constructive feedback on ones performance on a periodic, task by task, basis that actually allows them to assess their strengths and weaknesses; self-develop and grow.
Individuals that value feedback are often those that have a "learner's mindset" that helps shape everyday experiences into valuable learning opportunities. They are often inquisitive about things in general, in and outside work, and seek answers to questions that will help them understand.
Three key elements - assessment, challenge, and support - make the difference between an average experience and one that develops your performance and skills. First, you need to assess your current strengths and level of effectiveness, as well as areas that need improvement through seeking independent constructive feedback.
Next, you need to take on challenges that, by stretching you out of your comfort zone, enable you to improve your strengths and work on your weaknesses. Finally, you need to solicit support from others; since support, well the right kind anyway, can make your learning experience positive, while a lack of support can lead to frustration or even failure.
Cindy McCauley and Michael Wakefield ask, “what skills and experiences do you need for success, both now and in the future? Set specific, measurable goals for gaining those skills and experiences, and monitor your performance for improvement. Solicit feedback as often as possible. Continually assess your progress: Are your efforts having the expected impact? If they aren't, you may need to change your approach.”
In many 21st Century business cultures, many employees are grappling with understanding how to interact with social media, and what this means about being open and honest about performance and seeking feedback on various business events – there seems to be a tendency to shy away from getting honest and constructive feedback on performance, preferring instead to live in a world of contentment where possible weaknesses don’t have to be highlighted and dealt with.  
The danger with this approach is that it allows for the creation of an individual and organisational culture of mediocrity – where employees aren’t given feedback to allow them to constantly improve – but instead are given feedback that encourages the status quo, allowing employees to have that ‘feel good’ factor – meaning they ‘talk’ about how well they are doing rather than a future state of how good they could become.
In most cases you and the culture you work in will influence if you regularly seek out honest, constructive feedback that will allow you to constantly improve – and this very much depends on your own levels of confidence and your business mind-set.
If you really want to succeed in your career and you don’t currently have the mind-set and/or confidence to look for feedback on the things you do; then the best thing you can do is to embrace a mind-set of continual improvement from now on. This will mean seeking continuous feedback that can help you improve.
This mindset not only allows you to learn and develop, but it shows the organisation your determination to succeed and a desire to add value to the organisation – surely a win-win scenario for all involved.
McCauley, C. and Wakefield, M. (2006).Talent Management in the 21st Century: Help Your Company Find, Develop, and Keep its Strongest Workers. Journal for Quality & Participation. Vol. 29, Issue 4, p.4-7.

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