Feedback – A Learning Tool

The way we think about Feedback

In organizational life we tend to think of feedback in a rather limited way. Usually , we think of it in relation to those Performance Evaluations that we keep putting off until later. But if we widen our view of feedback, we’ll see that it could help us all move forward. It can let us know if we are on course or not, as it is a mechanism to help us adjust and move ahead a whole lot faster.

What is feedback? It is simply information. Information that is essential for learning at the individual, group or organizational level.

What is the purpose of feedback? It’s purpose is to help us see the discrepancies between what we think we are doing and what we are actually doing. It can show us where new capabilities need to be developed and lead to new insights into ways to make improvements.

Feedback comes in a variety of formats:

Results data
Reactions
Complaints
Exclusions
Compliments
Inclusions
Advice
Verbal
Suggestions
Gestures
Objections
Written
Criticisms
Survey results
Silence
Evaluations
Organizational Contexts:

Command & Control – “Feedback is used to get people to achieve goals or learn to do things they may not necessarily want to do. Coercion is disguised in the form of Management by Objectives, Performance Appraisals, Reward & Recognition systems, Competency based training, formal Personal Planning activities.” (Hargrove)

Internal Commitment – Feedback is a means for individuals or groups to realize their potential. It is based on finding out what people care passionately about and creating shared visions. When feedback is regarded as a learning tool, it will be something desired rather than something dreaded. We will seek it out wherever possible.

In a learning organization, we ask ourselves: What am I/we doing well? What do I/we need to improve? How can I/we improve it? Often we are unable to answer these questions without external input. We will need to ask for feedback, even if we are nervous about the response. Wouldn’t we want to know what everyone else knows? By regarding feedback as valuable information to be acted upon, we learn to detach from it and not take it emotionally, to be neutral toward it.

Coaching Questions to Stimulate Reflection About Your Life & Work

  • How is feedback regarded in your organization?
  • When was the last time you received feedback? How did you react to it?
  • How would you like to receive it?
  • What do you know about how your external customers/clients regard your work?
  • What would happen if you asked your internal customers how you could improve your service to them?