Feedback Creates a Winning Team

Tuesday, March 26 2013

Feedback in its simplest form: you look in the mirror, realize you have mustard on your lip, and wipe it off. An acceptable standard developed from past experience is a clean face; the method of measuring the current status – a mirror; a current picture of reality shows the mustard, which motivates a change in behaviour and you wipe your lip clean.

In the early days of growing your business, feedback helped you learn what was effective and productive. You yelled at an employee for making a mistake and he quit the next day. You hired another person, who made the same mistake. Through observation and reflection, an exit interview, or perhaps a conversation with someone you respected, you learned that training and coaching produces better results than yelling. Feedback helped you change your behaviour.

As mature business owners, we rarely get good, honest feedback any more. We have our own way of operating and if we’re successful, what we do works. We believe that our way is right. Over the past few years, we may have quashed meaningful feedback from our employees as our sense of being correct became entrenched.

In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There [1], Marshal Goldsmith declared “Successful people only have two problems dealing with negative feedback. However they are big problems: (a) they don’t want to hear it from us and (b) we don’t want to give it to them. ”Success has handicapped our ability to learn from feedback. We accept information that reinforces what we already “know” and reject information that contradicts our established belief system.

We need feedback – both positive and negative, for ourselves and our management team. Goldsmith goes on to say: “Without feedback we wouldn’t know if we are getting better or worse. …we all need feedback to see where we are, where we need to go, and to measure our progress.”[2]

As you prepare to transition your business, your management team needs to know what new skills and behaviours will enable them to be successful in their new roles. Because it’s hard to get honesty in face-to-face meetings, 360-feedback tools were developed. They provide anonymous, concrete, quantifiable information that is difficult to rationalize. A 360 tells us what behaviour changes today will produce preferred results in the future and provides a way to measure the changes. Like looking into the mirror, we see what is wrong. We are motivated to make corrections. We make a change and look again to see if it worked. Over time, a formal feedback loop helps develop a self-regulating management team capable of running the business even if you aren’t there.

Check out this article on procrastination and feedback under leadership.


[1] Goldsmith, Marshall. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. New York, Hyperion 2007, p. 110

[2] Ibid. p. 111