Feedback in Leadership

Feedback“Don’t come to me with problems – come with solutions ….” is a typical sentence that you can hear from a manager or a boss that is not in favor of receiving a feedback.

Why, indeed, a feedback is so important? Because it gives the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source.

Feedback in NatureFeedback is an unavoidable key component in all systems. In the Nature the systems that adjust according to feedback are similar to Darwinian adaptation and to what are called dynamical systems. Feedback in Nature is a normal process of learning of any leaving creature. In Nature what is not useful or too much energy consuming cannot survive a certain period. Feedback example is the V-shape flying pattern of geese. It can be explained by a simple set of four to five adjustment rules and flying efficiency. They change the position when the first goose is tired and goes back to the tail, then the second one takes a lead etc. This V-shape consumes less energy of each goose and permits to fly faster than a single goose could. They've certainly learned it through try and error feedback.

In martial arts listening and then replying accordingly is the name of the feedback game. Jing refers to one of the most important representations in Tai Chi – “listening” or “paying attention” to the opponent’s energy and his mind’s intent. Therefore, “listening” is actually a feedback for the mind of what you can sense and feel with your extremities or your whole body about opponent. Mostly, this can be practiced when in contact with another person: you trying to read or feel what he or she is intending to do, and even how he or she will do it. In one to one or mass battle in order to win a combat this knowledge of feedback reply is crucial. If you are late, you get hit.

V-shape flying pattern of geese“Feedback is a breakfast of champions” said Ken Blanchard. Why, then, most people hate giving or receiving feedback? Is it because a feedback has negative (not necessarily, a feedback can bring good news) connotations e.g. a subordinate believes the new idea of organization chart is aiming in the wrong direction and telling that to the boss would probably trigger a negative respond? General Colin Powell said “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care.  Either case is a failure of leadership”. This can be understood also as blocking the feedback in a leadership process.

Feedback should be an ongoing process in which the positive is emphasized while corrections are provided to the negatives actions. Giving (receiving) feedback should be a regular activity in the professional setting of any organization. By providing special assignments, constructive feedback, and targeted development opportunities it should be a base to explicitly look for the ways to empower the team and for its members to contribute more.

Feedback does not equal to criticism, but it is also true that for accepting the feedback the right environment must be set up. Feedback, not only from our customers, but also from our employees is crucial for building a better, stress-free and happy work-life balanced, work environment. Frequent open communication and suggestions should engage us in a better problem solving and create a cohesive, clear environment in organizations.

At the same time it is a foregone condition that ‘feedback givers’ must be willing also to accept feedback irrespective of whether it comes from higher or lower levels. A good leader’s obligation is not to expect the results he/she wants without giving feedback and clarifying expectations to the subordinates.

2 comments:

  1. This is a great post! In this discussion about feedback, I truly enjoyed how you tied this in with naturalistic laws as this is exactly how organisms learn, grow, and optimally function in their habitat. This presents a terrific "big picture" view of what feedback is.

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    1. Lynn thank you so much for your positive comment. It is a feedback to me and my writing :)

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