Why Employee Feedback Is Crucial (and How It Drives Engagement)

When done well, feedback is a powerful recognition tool that lets our team members know that we care about them as a person and we care about their ongoing development and growth.  Today’s workforce craves feedback that is delivered via a coaching format focused on helping them identify and explore the root causes of their recent successes and ongoing challenges.

Disengaged employees are less productive and less motivated to improve their performance. Train your managers to provide timely, meaningful feedback when positive behaviors or performance issues occur.

Here are some key takeaways from “The Feedback Fallacy” by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall:

  • We are unreliable raters of other humans. We don’t have the objectivity to hold in our heads a stable definition of an abstract quality, such as emotional intelligence, and then accurately evaluate someone else on it.
  • Our feedback to others is always more about us than them. Our sense of what good looks like, our harshness or leniency as raters and our inherent and unconscious biases often derail our best of intentions.
  • Focusing on weaknesses smothers our motivation to learn and grow. Learning rests on our understanding of what we’re doing well, not on what we’re doing poorly, and certainly not on what someone else’s sense of what we’re doing poorly.
  • Language is important. When giving feedback, Buckingham and Goodall encourage us to try the following:

Instead of…

“Can I give you some feedback?” TRY “Here’s my reaction.”

Instead of…

“Good job!” TRY “Here are 3 things that really worked for me. What was going through your mind when you did them?”

Instead of…

“Here’s what you should do.” TRY “Here’s what I would do.”

Instead of…

“Here’s what you need to improve.” TRY Here’s what I thought worked and why I think it worked.

Instead of…

“That didn’t really work.” TRY “Help me understand your thought process.”

Instead of…

“You should do X (in response to a request for advice).” TRY “What do you feel you’re struggling with and what have you done in the past that’s worked in a similar situation?”

Bottom Line
Focusing on people’s shortcomings doesn’t enable growth, it impairs it. We thrive when people who know us and care about us tell us what they experience when they see something within us that really works.