Feedback is NOT a “Gift.” It’s an Investment.
I am designing 360 Feedback workshops and got to reflecting on how we have historically positioned the value of feedback from the perspectives of both the giver and the receiver. One phrase that has become a cliché is that “feedback is a gift.” Clearly this message is primarily used to manage the reactions of feedback recipients, especially when the message is negative. And, as in the gift giving tradition, the leader is supposed to thank the givers for their thoughtfulness and then do whatever he/she wants with the “gift,” including nothing. While some leaders might take actions, the connotation of “gift” is that the recipient has no obligation to do so.
Of course, there are multiple things wrong with this scenario, including:
- The leader is left to his/her own design
- The quality of the “gift” is assumed to be constructive and valuable, even when it isn’t
- The raters are excused from their role as partnering with the leader in his/her development
When coworkers provide feedback in a 360 Feedback process, they should be encouraged to view the exercise as one where they have a vested interest in the leader’s development and improved effectiveness. This message includes the viewpoint that the feedback needs to be honest and constructive, and their responsibility (accountability) for the development of the leader doesn’t end when they submit their feedback.
We can create that vested interest through the language we use in training raters, even if it is primarily through instructions and emails. One concept is to describe the feedback as an “investment” in the leader, i.e., the raters will also benefit if the leader becomes more effective.
What are some of the ways the raters can maximize the value of their investment? They can:
- Ensure they participate in the 360 Feedback process
- Provide honest, constructive feedback, including constructive write in comments
- Encourage the leader to discuss his/her results with them
- Act to ensure that the leader clearly understands the messages
- Help the leader in crafting an impactful, actionable development plan
- Give the leader ongoing informal feedback if/when the leader exhibits progress
Let’s put the “gift” language to rest. Let’s encourage coworkers to see 360 Feedback as a sound investment in their future, but an investment that needs to be nurtured and supplemented.
©2015 David W. Bracken