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Time for Round 3!

What comes around every year and is pretty much dreaded by everyone involved? If you guessed winter in Chicago, I’d say you were close! However, today we’re talking about annual employee reviews.

In one corner, we have our employee. He’s feeling nervous, wondering if the results will match his expectations. Will he be praised for his hard work, or scolded for a mistake he hadn’t realized he’d made? In the other corner, we have his manager. She feels conflicted between wanting to be honest and wanting to provide encouragement. Will he step up this year, or will he continue to make excuses?

Giving and receiving feedback on our work performance can be uncomfortable, but we do it so that we can grow as individuals, which ultimately grows businesses. Hopefully, you don’t just leave a review and wait to share feedback until the same time next year. Can you imagine a boxer who never discusses his performance with his coach outside of the ring? That just won’t work! Consistent, honest feedback is essential for all employees regardless of your role or field of expertise. An analysis of real-time feedback between boxing coaches and their athletes clearly demonstrates the importance of giving the right feedback at the right time to improve performance. Much like boxers engaged in a heated match, your employees require your help to defeat your company’s competition.

Both individual and company performance should be an ongoing dialogue to ensure success in your organization. That means that reviews must go both ways, not just top down. But how can you get feedback from your employees? And what should you do with it? Here are some tips on how you can give and get the right feedback and use it effectively to make a difference:

Company Contention 

Intervene Early. Many times, we get feedback too late in the game to make much difference. In a boxing match, the cornerman can give feedback between rounds that can affect the ultimate outcome of a bout. As a manager, you should be getting and using frequent feedback to identify problems early. At Geneca, we use our original Joornal ™ app to collect general feedback on ongoing projects and look for trends that indicate things are about to take a turn for the worst. This allows us to intervene right away and get things back on track before it can negatively impact a client. Employees should be specific when possible, but also trust your gut. Share with leadership when you think something is going wrong, even if you can’t quite describe it.

Everyone Counts. Every employee, from the C-suite to your custodial staff, matters when it comes to getting feedback. If one group of employees is unhappy, it’s likely felt by everyone else in some way. This also includes your remote staff and corporate branches. Make sure you give equal opportunity for all to voice their opinions. No one wants to provide constructive feedback if they feel like you don’t care about what they have to say. If employees feel like they’re not being heard, they should be honest about it and discuss what they would need to feel that they are a valued member of the team.

Remain Supportive. Coaches with winning athletes were observed to give more supportive as opposed to controlling feedback throughout the match. Controlling feedback is used to ensure that the athlete behaves as expected, while supportive feedback empowers them to have a choice and affect the outcome. Giving supportive feedback is essential to motivate, promote autonomy, and increase self-esteem, resulting in improved performance over time. For instance, using rewards and punishments to ensure employees reach a deadline might work at first, but everyone is in a much better place when those employees develop the skills and desire to reach those deadlines of their own accord.

Take a Temperature. Taking a temperature’ can be gauging a room and using tone and body language to get a feel for what’s left unsaid. It can also be directly asking employees to rate things on a scale. For example, you may gather your product team and ask them to assign a number, 1-10, on how they’re feeling about the team’s work on the last project. This is a great way to get consistent feedback or ask for elaboration on surprising answers. Even if you’re not in a management role, odds are that you collaborate frequently with others. Use this technique to be able to offer or ask for help when needed and best delegate the work.

Keep it External. In boxing, athletes show significant improvement in performance when coaches give external versus internal feedback. Internal feedback is focused on parts of the body, while external is focused more on outside factors. Internal feedback can be subconsciously interpreted as a personal attack and highlights the athlete’s deficiency, while external feedback provides a challenge and puts the focus on the results of that body movement. Keep your feedback external to promote positive change and avoid the other person becoming defensive.

Improve the Relationship. The most important thing you can do is to cultivate a strong relationship with your manager. Having respect and trust between both of you will go a long way towards being able to be honest about your thoughts and feelings. Not everything can always be on the table, but if you trust one another, you can have faith that things will work out for the best. Have you heard of Muhammad Ali? His strong, lasting partnership with his trainer, Angelo Dundee, is credited with creating a boxing legend in a world where “fighters change trainers the way most people change their shorts”.

It’s incredibly important for both employees and managers to take steps to share and act on feedback effectively. It keeps employees engaged and improves leadership skills for management.

In this split decision bout, judges award this round to the managers! It’s a close call, but managers often give feedback as it’s the nature of their job. Employees should also take an active role in receiving and giving feedback. Don’t just leave it to the managers – you can impact change, too! By implementing some of these easy steps, employees can make feedback an ongoing dialouge and set everyone up for success.

No doubt, both sides want to place the blame on one another when it comes to getting and giving feedback. However, nothing can be accomplished if everyone is standing back attempting to rope-a-dope their opponent. The key takeaway is to focus on your company culture and individual relationships to create a workplace where feedback is valued, encouraged, and used to make sure you all come out winners.

It’s back to neutral corners for now, but join us next week for Round 4: Management Misconceptions!