No time like the present
Openness and Trust
By Karla Zadnick, Associate Dean of the College of Optometry
When I was asked to share my thoughts around coaching and feedback, it was a little hard to think about the steps I take to offer and receive feedback. My philosophy is that feedback, more specifically performance feedback, should happen automatically, virtually every day.
In my group, it’s easy to offer, “Great job!” “Can you do it this way next time?” and so on. This happens among all of us because we have created an environment where we are approachable, and we are routinely expected to offer and receive praise, feedback and constructive criticism.
That’s the idea of the culture we’re creating — coaching and feedback needs to become part of what we do every day. When we continuously offer suggestions on how our colleagues can be more effective, the stigma around “feedback” disappears and it leads to more feedback being offered and received.
It helps us maintain a positive frame of mind: Rather than worrying about your review tomorrow, you tell yourself, “I’m going to work, and people are going to tell me that I am generally doing a good job and will help me with how I can do better.”
I set high expectations when I give or receive feedback. I believe that, when you provide feedback, it has to be something important enough to require action. In the right environment — where there’s open, honest communication — the process of offering feedback and responding to it just happens. I also expect that feedback occurs at all levels — manager to employee, employee to manager and peer to peer.
As with many things, it’s easy to come up with a list of reasons why it’s better to not offer coaching and feedback.
- “I don’t have time.”
- “I don’t know enough about that project.”
- “I’m not sure how it will be received.”
Offering feedback only takes a few minutes, and it can have many benefits. We all have different perspectives; looking at things in a new way can help us achieve more. There also are resources on the Excellence to Eminence website that can improve coaching skills. My rule is, if you are physically (or electronically, although in person or by real voice is my preference) near the people you work with, offering feedback can happen all the time.
Here’s an example of both giving and receiving feedback. Several months ago, I was riding my bicycle home and saw a bumper sticker, “Wag more. Bark less.” As a newly appointed cultural strategist in the College of Optometry, I raced home and sent an inspirational e-mail on this theme to my college’s faculty and staff. Okay, so that wasn’t specific feedback, but it represented generic reinforcement of issues related to a change in the university’s culture. A few weeks later, I, quite simply, misbehaved in a meeting. I was aggressive, argumentative and just plain rude. Later in the day, one of the people in the meeting took a minute to remind me of my wagging/barking e-mail and it stopped me cold. I apologized for my unprofessional behavior and vowed to do better next time. Immediate, frank, friendly feedback from a colleague defused a rough moment in the workplace.
While coaching and feedback should occur continuously in an informal way, we do have more formal opportunities to do so. One is the performance management process. In this process, several times a year the employee has a conversation about what he or she has achieved, how he or she can be even more effective and identifies what support he or she needs to achieve set goals. It’s an opportunity for supervisors to share feedback with employees and vice versa.
It’s important to remember that formal performance management processes aren’t a substitute for regular, appropriate interaction. Performance coaching shouldn’t be constrained to 30 minutes once a quarter or an hour once a year. When it is, there can be surprises and misalignment between self-review and the boss’ review. When you have ongoing conversations, those types of disconnects don’t happen.
Remember, don’t wait for someone to offer coaching. Ask others for feedback; it might come as a surprise to see how a different viewpoint can lead to a new, better approach.
Posted on January 7, 2011