Performance Feedback

I’ve been travelling around this spring and visiting our plants. I’ve been reviewing the numbers from the “engagement survey” we had you complete.  We made a commitment to share only the numbers from a specific plant with the team associated with the plant so I won’t be providing results.  But, my summary would be that your response was positive and you helped us to identify areas for improvement.

In every single plant, one area where we can improve is on giving you feedback about your performance. According to the theory related to our survey, companies and teams which give frequent feedback tend to perform better than those that don’t give feedback often. Our survey attempts to get at that by asking “have you had feedback in the last seven days.”

I mentioned this a few weeks ago and one of you wrote me back. I got permission to share his response:

“I’ve worked in this industry awhile. I do not run out of fingers counting the occasions where I got a verbal “Atta Boy”. I contribute it to the environment and the way so many managers succeeded in this industry. I have grown to not expect it.”

We have a history of hard work and productivity. It is the expectation that you will work hard every time you step foot in one of our plants.  As leaders, we have a tendency to take that hard work for granted. We don’t tend to verbalize the appreciation.

He continues: “I can say that the praises do come but they are very disguised. You have to listen very carefully and recognize them thru the camouflage. It seems very difficult to verbalize “Good job” at times. I ‘hear’ the comments in the way I am treated, the way the managers go the extra mile and take extra steps to help me. If they see a task is going to be difficult, they offer encouragement. The way they respond to me shows me they care and value my efforts. I can rattle off dozens of things my managers have done that show me I am appreciated and they recognize my accomplishments.”

What’s described here is a culture of respect. We demonstrate approval for good consistent work with helpful behavior, timely encouragement.  The feedback is in our head and our actions.  We just don’t verbalize it.  Our colleague says it’s OK with him to leave it that way.

He concludes: “I look for the support. If it is there, I am comfortable, happy, content. Words do not mean too much if the big things are missing.”

Through his feedback, I think my colleague was saying it isn’t just verbal feedback that matters. It is the whole package of respect, consideration, encouragement and support.

But, I think we make a mistake if we take that pass. We all thrive with encouragement.  The verbal words of “thanks”, “well done”, “good job”, “you’re a pro”, “that took extra effort and I appreciate it”, “Your work has improved”.  All those things said resonate with the one who is praised.

The words of “let me help”, “let me teach you”, “let me show you”, “I think you have more to contribute”-all those words of “re-direction” show caring and concern.

The organization that is built around frequent communication and feedback performs better. They grow stronger.  They learn quickly from mistakes.  The move with agility and strength.

We have to get feedback thoughts out of our head and onto our lips. It can’t be “disguised”, it must be plain.  Give feedback often.  Make it plain.  It will create an edge for us.