Three Components of Effective Feedback

FeedbackArticles on the negative aspects of “feedback” are appearing with increased popularity.  Some argue that feedback doesn’t assure improved performance, others argue that it’s demoralizing.

We were recently asked to perform a 3600 appraisal on a CEO, including his self-appraisal.  Both the CEO and the chairman of the company’s compensation committee requested it.  And, therein lies a clue to one third of the equation for success.  The CEO (let’s call him Mike) requested the appraisal.  He is keenly self-aware; he believes that learning is a life-long process; he wants to continue to grow and develop as a leader.  Mike knows the value of feedback.  The three of us developed the survey protocol to ensure that it was appropriate to Mike’s position and his business.

The survey includes an opportunity for qualitative feedback as well as quantitative using a program that ensures confidentiality for all respondents.  Selecting appropriate respondents is another third component of success.  Recognizing that the goal of the performance appraisal is not punitive, respondents were selected who would be insightful in their answers.  And, in Mike’s case, the responses were quite thoughtful and the match to Mike’s self-perception was nearly identical.  While this is a nice affirmation, the substance came in the qualitative section where respondents had the opportunity to submit open-ended comments to each question.

Now for the third component of success: we believe it’s how the feedback is delivered.  We find that a qualified, objective, impartial third party is best suited to provide it with a focus on personal and professional development.  It’s more about what Mike is going to do with the results than the results themselves.  Delivery by an objective professional can minimize defensiveness and help assure a focus on opportunity.

Leaders with even a modicum of self-awareness already know what others think of them.  It’s those who seek a deeper level of insight and really wish to grow who are the best candidates for a 360.  So, look in the mirror and ask yourself if that’s who you are.

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