Fair Talk: Three Steps to Powerful Feedback by Sergey Gorbatov and Angela Lane gives anyone the tools to deliver impactful feedback and drive great performance. Today we hear from Mark Effron, President of Talent Strategy Group on Turning up the dial on feedback accountability from the book.
“If you have information that you’re convinced will make your company more effective, do you have an obligation to tell your leaders? What if your company has information about you that will help you to be more professionally successful/ Would you expect your leaders to tell you? The case to be transparent in these situations may seem obvious until we test that logic on a very easy example – feedback.
The science is clear. Feedback with applied follow-up skills and behaviours in ways that benefit their careers. If we give others feedback and they accept it, they’re more likely to be successful. There’s simply no logical case against giving feedback.
The challenge is that the science is equally clear that our brains don’t respond well to feedback.
Our brains are hard-wired to protect our self-image. When they hear information that doesn’t confirm what a great person we are, our brains try to ignore it, refute it or excuse it away. Our brains also don’t like conflict, so we hesitate to give feedback to others because we want to maintain the relationships and hierarchies that exist at work.
The consequences – positive and negative – linked to that accountability determine whether we’re likely to overcome our natural tendencies and do what’s beneficial to us and others. One way to identify whether the consequences are meaningful enough is to use the Accountability Ladder. The Accountability Ladder lists a hierarchy of consequences in increasing order of severity – from barely perceptible to draconian. Each is a consequence of either doing or not doing something. The consequences range from personal knowledge of success or failure to having others know, pay changes and even to promotion or termination. Each step up the ladder is a meaningful step up from the previous one.
The key question you need to answer is, how beneficial or painful does a consequence have to be before someone takes action?
The goal of the Accountability Ladder is to use just enough consequences to create the desired result. If you use too heavy a hand, it’s wasteful and can also create a culture of fear if draconian consequences exist for every requested action. Conversely, too light a touch will result in little or no action being taken.
I’ve found the best level of accountability for giving and seeking feedback is about 6. Public knowledge of what others are doing or not doing is a powerful cultural force. It helps to overcome our natural residence to action. This means you must believe in both accountability and transparency – a rare and powerful combination.
The necessary knowledge can be made public by carrying out a simple two-question survey. The first question asks employees whether they have received direct feedback about their performance or behaviours in the past 30 days. The second question asks employees whether their boss has asked for feedback in the past 30 days. Once you have the data, post the raw responses publicly. I can guarantee you that laggards will quickly engage in giving and asking for more feedback.
We can help leaders overcome their hesitancy by creating just significant incentive for them to do the right thing. The Accountability Ladder provides a helpful guide to enable you to do exactly that.
10 – You can be promoted or terminated for your action/lack of action
9 – Your career progress sharply accelerates or decelerates
8 – You receive meaningfully more or less compensation
7 – You receive a higher or lower performance rating
6 – Many others know about your success/failure
5 – You receive praise or critique from your manager
4 – You feel strong cultural pressure to do/not do something
3 – A few others know about your success/failure
2 – Only you know about your success/failure
1 – Many others know what your responsibilities are
0 – There are no consequences for your actions
About the book
Employees around the world are deprived of honest objective feedback, and the higher you go in the organisation, the less feedback you are going to get. Researchers confirmed that the fewer facetime employees have with their managers, the more impact seeking and receiving feedback will have on their performance.
Gorbatov and Lane propose a simple, systematic approach to giving fair and honest feedback, in ways that improve performance and prove that, if done properly, feedback simultaneously improves performance while engaging and developing employees.
About the authors
Angela Lane and Sergey Gorbatov work and write about the complex science of human performance while making it simple. Leveraging Fortune 500 experience gained across four continents, they equip leaders with practical tools for success.
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