Last year HBR released an article that really resonated with us. The crux of the article is summarised in this line.
“It turns out feedback does not help employees thrive”.
Bam. Well, that’s unfortunate!
But it’s not all bad news. As the article underscores, understanding the neuroscience and having a coaching mindset are key foundations to helping others to learn and grow. Here are two big takeaways that can transform how you do feedback to make it more effective:
Understand your peoples’ zones of genius and build on that. People grow more of what they already have. If you can bring a richer clarity about their strengths, and align this to what they believe about themselves, then you’ve got the basis for successful development. From a brain perspective, what you’re doing is highlighting where connections and neurons already exist (“tight thickets of synaptic connections” as the article evocatively calls them). That’s why it’s less helpful to highlight the big gaps; it’s like pointing to an empty field and saying, ‘Grow that!’. When you’re next talking to someone, identify what they’re doing well and look for extensions, deepenings, connections between things that will strengthen that for them. Like growing another bunch of branches and leaves around something that’s already healthy.
Build on the uniqueness of excellence. The hard thing to live with sometimes is that someone else will do excellence differently to the way you do it. It’s why NOT being a content expert in something is sometimes a boost to your leadership capability. You’re forced to take a coaching approach rather than a teaching or instructing approach. We can extend performance in someone else by helping them to iterate and extend their excellence in ways we couldn’t necessarily have predicted. You know you’re helping someone in this way when there’s a long pause after one of your questions, and you can see them grappling for an answer. Hold the space and let them struggle as they push new neuronal branches out.
If you’re curious about how we help in this area, do give us a bell. We can help with performance management challenges (someone just isn’t working out) as well as extending your and others’ people development capabilities.