Constant feedback in the workplace helps everyone up their game
By Vicki Salemi | June 25, 2023, at 7:57am
Although Carrie Winans, vice president at global strategic communications firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies, has a semiannual performance review with her Chicago-based manager, she doesn’t wait around for feedback.
The 32-year-old Long Island City resident is in constant communication with her boss, checking in informally every month.
She also gives feedback to seven junior staffers on a daily basis.
In addition, Winans uses an internal platform to proactively seek feedback from peers and other managers to “have a record of progress outside of the specific feedback cycles.”
For Winans, a self-described “bubbly individual,” the feedback she wants often concerns her facial expressions — her typically smiling face may look perplexed during a conversation.
“I struggle to hide my true thoughts or if I’m surprised,” she admitted. “I always appreciate this feedback. It helps bring awareness to this trait and allows me to better understand how clients might be perceiving me.”
Applying this information in pursuit of a poker face, Winans said, “I have tried so hard to learn to control my face better, but some of us were meant for the stage and ended up in the boardroom.”
Eduardo Briceño, author of “The Performance Paradox” (Ballantine Books, out Sept. 5), said meaningful, specific feedback isn’t only helpful to the person receiving it, but also to the organization as a whole.
“When we seek feedback visibly and explicitly and align with our colleagues on why that’s important and how to go about it, we encourage and inspire others to do the same,” said Briceño.
The author said that soliciting and embracing feedback creates a culture of learning and growth which encourages a workforce “not only to perform, but also to learn. More brains perform and learn better than one brain — the strongest organizations that achieve the highest levels of success make learning and feedback a core part of their culture. Regular feedback helps us get there.”
It turns out, feedback has room to grow.
In a survey conducted by online platform Officevibe, 64% of respondents said the quality of the performance feedback they’d received could be improved.
Along with consistent feedback, structured performance reviews are still helpful, said Briceño, since they’re a deeper dive than smaller, daily interactions and typically follow templates that prompt workers to ask powerful questions and reflect.
Soliciting feedback is an asset for employees, contractors and leaders alike.
Briceño said, “When everyone is soliciting feedback regularly and from different people, they have internalized a growth mindset— the belief that no matter how good they are, they can always improve.”
Dottie Herman, vice chair and former CEO of Douglas Elliman, one of the country’s leading national brokerages, and radio host of “Eye on Real Estate,” sends anonymous questionnaires, since some workers may be less comfortable than others with sharing in groups.
“You can get feedback about how effective their training is, what they like, what they don’t like,” said Herman. “It helps them to do a better job and it helps me.”
Valuing each employee is key, including the middle managers who sometimes feel lost. “You’re not just a number,” Herman said. “Everyone knows the top people. You never hear a peep out of them, they’re good and they work hard — that’s also important. Build a culture where someone doesn’t get lost, where people are not afraid.”
Creating a safe, transparent, approachable culture is key, but once feedback is solicited and exchanged, the next step is action.
“Feedback is not helpful when it is neither action-oriented nor constructive,” said Christopher Rim, CEO and founder of Midtown-based Command Education, an education and admissions consultancy. “As a manager, you cannot request feedback from an employee if you aren’t willing or prepared to do something about it, as it will create situations that are more frustrating for everyone if there is no follow-through.”
His remote company has weekly meetings and unstructured in-person gatherings for managers and team members to “observe and give specific feedback face-to-face.”
According to Briceño, ideally feedback should be solicited regularly (three times a week) from different people — six people each month — and it should be specific.
When people share only positive feedback, Briceño suggests asking a follow-up question: “That’s helpful, thank you. And what is one thing I could try differently next time?”
A lack of specificity could lead to the exit. At a former employer, Winans’ effort to get more clearly defined input with specific examples was a futile endeavor.
“This ended up being incredibly frustrating,” said Winans who eventually left because she felt there was nothing she could do to be successful. “The feedback did begin to feel very personal and not professional. When you cannot connect the thoughts between feedback and work, you begin to feel that it is really about feedback and how much the person likes you.”
Essentially, it should be a two-way street, since active listening is critical.
And for time-crunched New Yorkers, ditch a long meeting and immediately tie feedback back to work. Keep it quick and specific.
Above all, there’s no shame in the game. “Feedback can be perceived as an opportunity to identify a weakness, but feedback applies to both weaknesses and strengths,” Briceño said.
Originally published on New York Post on June 25, 2023