Lessons in Leadership: When No Feedback is Bad News

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While fragmented demands and conflicting priorities rain down on an organization, one of the most versatile tools a leader has at her disposal is feedback. Effective feedback is a learnable skill set that, when practiced and honed, becomes an art form. In the leadership development field, we teach the leader to use feedback as a fundamental technique for correcting and guiding performance. We teach leaders to coach, to use feedback to develop individuals for both current and future success. More importantly, we stress the need for effective communication, and the give and take of feedback is an essential part of the process.

No feedback equates to bad news and missed opportunities. Stated differently, when leaders fail to use feedback consistently, they limit their personal capability and diminish organizational capacity.

To reverse the equation, consider why the presence of feedback is good news.

The Value of Feedback

  1. Sets standards and improves performance

Standards of performance equate to clear expectations.  For example, when someone is new to the role, a leader’s job is to make sure he sets the person up for success by giving clear direction and guidance for what is expected.

Feedback guides performance. Feedback sets the bar for what is needed and what is acceptable. It has its own rhythm created by objective, specific, and timely examples that illustrate the impact of someone’s behavior. It acknowledges both productive and constructive behavior. Feedback guides individuals to the goals and the level of expected performance.

  1. Creates clarity

It is impossible to create too much clarity. Clarity is organizational oxygen. From the status quo to exponential change, feedback clarifies roles, responsibilities, and priorities. As an element of clarity, feedback is the give and take needed to drive activities that range from immediate compliance to professional development opportunities.

 

  1. Nails down responsibilities and guide

Like clarity and standards, nothing creates the conditions for successful performance more than nailing down who is responsible for what. An effective leader uses feedback to help individuals clarify their responsibilities and provide feedback on their performance. As priorities change, so do responsibilities. Think of how an orchestra leader uses continuous feedback to ensure each member is performing at the right time and the right level through a broad range of changes.

 

  1. Informs professional development

Successful leaders are great teachers and mentors. They engage in feedback as a continuous process to improve a person’s performance. Over time, that feedback, those discussions, and the leader’s ability to listen enables the leader to be an informed resource for the person’s professional development. Behold the leader as advocate for professional development, not as concept, but as action.

Feedback empowers. Feedback engages. Feedback improves personal capabilities. Feedback is the glue that creates a high performance organization. At its core, it is effective, continuous, two-way communication. When there is no feedback, the void created cannot be filled in any other way.

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