Feedback from a leader is crucial for various reasons, as it contributes significantly to the overall success and growth of both the individuals and the organisation. Feedback helps individuals understand their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to improve their performance. By addressing areas that need improvement and reinforcing positive behaviours, leaders help their team members grow and achieve their goals.
Feedback from a leader can boost employee engagement and motivation, as it demonstrates that their work is valued and that the leader is invested in their success. Acknowledging achievements and providing guidance can inspire team members to strive for excellence. Timely feedback from a leader can help identify and address issues before they escalate. Leaders can help their team members overcome obstacles and find solutions by addressing concerns and providing guidance.
While there are so many benefits of providing feedback globally, substantial evidence suggests that many leaders struggle with providing feedback. Various studies and surveys have explored this topic, and while specific numbers may vary, the consensus is that there is room for improvement. An HBR study found that while 72% of employees believe their performance would improve if their managers provided corrective feedback, only 58% of managers feel comfortable providing such feedback. Another study by the HBR found that frequent feedback could lead to a 20% increase in employee performance
This article will explore why many lack or struggle to provide effective feedback. There are several reasons why many leaders find it challenging. In our opinion, some of these reasons include the following:
1. NO TRAINING
Despite feedback’s critical role in the workplace, many leaders find themselves unprepared to offer constructive feedback to their teams. This can stem from a lack of formal training, resulting in them being unsure of how to approach the topic or deliver the feedback effectively. Therefore, companies must prioritise feedback training for their leaders.
2. NO CLEAR SUCCESS CRITERIA FOR MANY ROLES
Effective feedback is vital to a well-functioning workplace, but many leaders struggle to provide it, especially when the criteria for success are poorly defined. For example, a lot of organisations outline business objectives to be achieved. Still, many organisations cannot define how those will be achieved and what skills and behaviours are essential for performance in each role. Therefore, the companies must provide a clear framework for defining success and expected skills and behaviours for each role.
We believe Leadership Pipeline and Specialist Pipeline frameworks could be of great guidance to enhance performance understanding of different roles and to bring structure in driving development and the right behaviours of direct reports.
3. MISUNDERSTANDING VALUE
Leaders often achieve results by delegating tasks to specialists or other organisational leaders. However, some leaders may underestimate the impact of improving their direct reports’ performance through feedback, mistakenly believing that a hands-on approach will yield better results. Providing thoughtful, constructive feedback requires time and effort, and leaders may prioritise other tasks over giving feedback.
Focusing and prioritizing on providing constructive feedback and empowering team members can significantly improve overall performance and engagement. When leaders focus on developing their direct reports, they create a more robust and adaptable organisation that can better respond to changes and challenges. When leaders invest time and effort in improving their direct reports’ performance, they can build a more long-term efficient and productive team with many tasks achieved without their leader’s hands-on presence. One constructive feedback given timely could improve an employee’s performance for many weeks, months and years to come.
4. CULTURE OR HABITS
In some organisational cultures, providing feedback is not prioritised or encouraged. In such environments, leaders may not have the support or tools to provide feedback to their team members effectively. Senior management is crucial in setting the tone for an organisation’s culture. Their attitudes and behaviours often serve as an example for the rest of the company. Senior leaders can hurt the entire organisation when they fail to support and promote a feedback culture. A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study found that companies with a strong feedback culture experience 14.9% lower turnover rates.
Some leaders may overestimate their abilities and assume their team members know what is expected of them without explicit feedback. This mindset can lead to a lack of communication and guidance. Leaders might also focus too much on quantitative performance indicators, neglecting the qualitative aspects of feedback that can help team members grow and develop. Regular feedback has many merits. It fosters open and transparent communication between leaders and their teams. One should realise that it can help build trust and rapport between a leader and their team members. When leaders show that they care about their team’s development and well-being, it fosters a sense of loyalty and commitment. Employees are likelier to stay with a company that supports their growth and values their contributions.
6. FEAR OF NEGATIVE REACTION
Some leaders may avoid providing feedback for fear of creating conflict or damaging relationships with team members. They may worry that negative feedback will demotivate or offend their team members and thus prefer to stay silent. Many leaders must change the mindset around feedback by viewing it as a tool for growth and development rather than as a source of criticism. When providing feedback, one should focus on specific behaviours and actions rather than making personal judgments.
7. BIASES ASSESSING OTHERS
Biases can significantly impact performance evaluation and create challenges for leaders to provide constructive feedback. For example, halo effect bias might let an employee’s positive traits or past successes overshadow other aspects of their performance. This can result in a biased evaluation that overlooks areas for improvement. Therefore, organisations must educate leaders and their teams about common biases that can impact performance evaluations. Greater awareness of these biases can help reduce their influence on assessments.
Organisations might provide guidelines and procedures to the leadership team for providing feedback.
Organisations may use various surveys and assessments like the Predictive Index Optimization Platform to increase awareness for leaders and direct reports about individual strengths and weaknesses.
For example, feedback from multiple sources, such as peers, subordinates, or other leaders, would allow a more balanced and comprehensive understanding of an employee’s performance.
To improve in providing feedback, leaders can seek training, create more robust and transparent performance expectations frameworks, and create an environment that values open and constructive feedback.
Leaders need to recognise the value of feedback and priority over other tasks.
Over the past decade, we have proudly assisted numerous organisations with our leadership and specialist programs. We encourage you to contact us for more information or explore our services tailored to your needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us!