The Need for a Joining Mindset
The article below was published in Human Resources magazine in their September 2012 issue. The culture of feedback discussed is still an important skill in organizations today. This article addresses the need for interaction safety in feedback and the importance of a Joining mindset.
Note: The text from the article, transcribed below, has changed British spelling to American spelling.
Bring back the feedback
Perhaps nothing in today’s organizations is an essential – or as elusive – as creating great leaders. Good feedback is one way of making a difference.
Traditional training can teach many of the required skills, mindsets and behaviors for leadership – but what happens after the training sessions? How can leaders practice the behaviors they have learned to maximize their impact on an organization?
Feedback is a key to this process. Annual performance reviews, however, do not provide nearly enough feedback for anyone to practice and establish new behaviors. Because repetition is an effective tool for learning, feedback should become a way of life throughout the organization, to be given and received continually in multiple contexts.
Unfortunately, such feedback is rarely forthcoming. Most people are fearful of giving feedback, or they have been taught not to give feedback up the ranks of the organization. Faced with this dynamic, companies need to change the environment to enable a constant flow of feedback to leaders.
Acknowledge the desire
People are often more willing to provide honest feedback when they know how much leaders appreciate it. Leaders continually tell us input from others is invaluable to them.
Without input, they have no way to gauge their progress on new behaviors or to fine-tune their approach for the greatest positive impact.
Leaders are not the only people who benefit from feedback. By participating in feedback, people discover the power of being honest and speaking up, which enables them to do so more frequently for the benefit of their organization.
Create a safe environment for feedback
One way of fostering a sense of safety is to create a dedicated feedback group. The leader starts this process by recruiting a diverse cross-section of trusted people, who are then coached to become comfortable giving feedback to the leader.
Over time, the leader and group members deepen their sense of trust with one another, enabling all to speak up openly. The groups’ diversity (across functions, titles and positions) enables the leader to get a broader perspective.
Make it a regular occurrence
In a feedback-rich environment, leaders could end meetings with a review of what went well and what could improve. Improvements could be incorporated into a checklist or the next meeting. Colleagues could observe the leader’s “hallway interactions” and point out areas for continuous improvement. How does the leader show up on conference calls? On video conferences? In one-on-one interactions?
Each situation provides an opportunity for people specific on-the-spot feedback.
Share feedback as support, not criticism
Too often, people share feedback from a judging mindset: they criticize, find fault and express feedback in a negative fashion which makes the leader defensive. In contrast, when people work to join their leader – to share feedback as an ally, not a critic – they seek ways to build up the leader’s capabilities.
Instead of standing outside the leader’s world and judging their behavior, people work to understand that world from the inside.
It is easier for leaders to incorporate feedback from allies than to endure judgments from critics.
Consider “feed forward”
Not every input has to come after the fact. Those who know the leader well can review the leader’s schedule, anticipate opportunities to practice certain behaviors, and then apprise the leader of those opportunities.
This enables the leader to increase their “right first time” interactions – a cornerstone of eliminating waste and gaining efficiencies in today’s competitive marketplace.
Complex changes require profound mindsets and behavioral shifts that reach fruition only after steady practice. It is here where hands-on leadership development and its principal component, feedback, can be so effective – bringing forth continuous improvement in leaders and, by extension, throughout the organization.