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Friday, December 1, 2023

Lean Quote: Positive Feedback is How We Learn and Improve

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve.  —  Bill Gates

Receiving regular, actionable feedback is crucial for your employees’ growth and development. Delivered in the right way, feedback can positively impact your company through improved performance, increased employee engagement, and greater levels of trust. But giving constructive feedback still makes many of us uneasy.

I recommend using the framework of the three Cs — Clarity, Contextual Meaning, and Composure — as a guide for turning every performance review into an opportunity to demonstrate empathy and help employees achieve lasting growth, learning, and improvement.

With practice, managers can use the three Cs to deliver constructive feedback that provides transparent direction (Clarity), emphasizes employees’ goals (Contextual Meaning), and negotiates employees’ affective reactions (Composure).

Clarity: The “Content”

Effective feedback provides specific information on two elements of an employee’s performance. The first element focuses on the employee’s past actions and behaviors. This presents managers with a golden opportunity to be specific. Rather than speaking in broad, general evaluations (e.g., “the presentation was not compelling enough”), communicate how the employee’s specific actions and behaviors contributed to them exceeding, meeting, or falling short of expectations.

The second element of effective feedback focuses on the future. Give the employee precise directions about what they should do to improve their performance next time.

Contextual Meaning: The “Why”

No conversation exists in a vacuum. Rather, our interactions are rich with contextual meaning that flows from our backgrounds, relationships, experiences, and, crucially, our goals.

During a performance evaluation, employees implicitly want to hear, “What does this feedback mean for my bonus, promotion, or professional reputation?” Managers who successfully identify and connect their feedback to each employee’s unique goals will deliver a more impactful and longer-lasting message.

Composure: The “Response”

Managers who wish to deliver effective feedback must leverage their emotional intelligence. Before a performance review, identify the emotions the employee is likely to experience during the conversation. Then craft your message with the relevant feeling in mind. For example, understanding how an employee will interpret feedback about their career goals, and then shifting the conversation to how their goals can still be achieved, can help disarm anger or anxiety.

Delivering feedback is among a manager’s greatest challenges. The three Cs provide a practical, psychology-based framework that will help managers deliver more effective feedback. By leveraging Clarity, Contextual Meaning, and Composure, managers can adapt their feedback conversations to the unique needs of each employee and provide an actionable roadmap for improved learning, growth, and performance going forward.

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