Whatever your company's performance feedback process may be, consider that giving feedback consistently is a critical skill for developing a high performance culture and employees.
But while a well-designed
feedback process and supporting system will go a long way in making the
feedback process a more meaningful and natural part of doing business for all, until effective feedback
becomes a leadership imperative those systems and processes can feel like
necessary evils rather than tools that enable excellence.
The obvious importance of giving feedback is to hold people accountable for delivering on their promises and offering meaningful and supportive insight and direction to help people learn, grow and succeed. But leaders can also leverage performance feedback opportunities to consciously instill desired culture and values, as well as to encourage a culture of leadership and ownership.
Here are 3 ways leaders can leverage performance feedback to not only develop high performing employees but also to develop a high performing culture:
1. Developing high performing employees by focusing on what's important
There's a saying "what you focus on grows". I'll suggest that what you as a leader focus on not only grows, but exponentiates in individual thinking and behavior, and ultimately in your organization's culture.
For example, persistently point out mistakes and people will learn to focus on not making mistakes — often at the expense of taking the kinds of risks that can result in great work. On the other hand, persistently ask people how they can improve what they're doing or how things are being done, and they'll begin to naturally thing about how to do things better — whether you're involved or not.
2. Using feedback to foster accountability in action
While the importance of accountability is widely recognized, the difficult conversations sometimes involved in holding people to account can cause people to shy away from having them or to soften the message to make people on both sides less uncomfortable.
By leveraging performance feedback you hold people accountable for being and doing their best work rather than teach them to fear the consequences of falling short, and you fuel high performance.
example is the difference between asking someone "why aren't you meeting
your deadlines?" after they've fallen down multiple times versus asking
them "what do you need to stay on track?" before they miss the next
deadline. That kind of performance feedback gives them time and support to correct
course. It's a much more effective way of developing high performing employees.
When people know they'll be held to a high standard, they'll learn to consistently act within that standard. When they know you're paying attention and are there to support them in succeeding when they're struggling, you'll have more supportive performance feedback conversations along the way than tough conversations after the fact.
3. Leveraging performance feedback to point out leadership in action
There are those who just seem to know how to take the lead and be a leader. And there are a lot of people who don't know how, and even those who don't even believe they can be a leader.
Yet if you want to develop high performing employees and a high performance culture, you must help people to access their ability to be leaders in those moments of truth when it's up to them to make the difference.
The difference could be made by simple actions like providing input, owning a mistake and correcting it, intervening when a project is off course, or speaking up with their ideas. Consider that any action taken that makes a difference in the outcome is an act of leadership. If you question this, think about what could have happened if they hadn't acted.
By leveraging performance feedback opportunities to point out the ways they demonstrated leadership, as well as where they could be providing leadership in specific ways, you'll build an essential bridge from the theory of leadership to the action of leadership. Show people specific ways to be leaders in practice and they'll begin to act more and more as leaders.
How leaders leverage feedback
The bottom line is, your feedback sends a loud message and has an impact beyond an individual's performance in the moment. As a leader, every opportunity to give feedback is also an opportunity for developing a high performance culture. Are you taking full advantage of those opportunities?