Feedback is one of the buzz words you would hear in modern workplace. Also, feedback is our natural response to signals. What is not obvious at first is that our responses are signals for others, so being deliberate about giving and receiving feedback is crucial for any healthy environment.
Feedback brings us closer
Maybe you have noticed that feedback could have different effects on us. According to Adam Smith’s theory all people are rational beings that tend to strike deals that make us better off. While it might be a good basis for economics, Daniel Kahneman has shown it is not the case with individuals.
One of the most interesting parts about starting new engagements for me is to discover people I will be working with and “deviations” that make us unique. Observing actions and reactions gives me basic understanding but only when I start to share these notes with them it is possible to reveal motivations. It is important to have the ability to separate these actions form the person and have constructive conversations about effects they cause – sometimes good, sometimes not.
Feedback enables us to react, learn and multiply
When I was a kid, I used to watch F1 with my dad. Whole Sunday I would sit in front of the TV and follow the race. My favorite part was lap times. I followed times closely to see if Mika was closing in on Schumacher. At that point I was unable to do anything else than to cheer or boo. Today I understand that these loops were data points and helped teams to prepare and respond to events unfolding on the track.
We form loops like these in work as well. With predefined checkpoints to measure what has been done and how well. Call them what you like – Reviews, Retros, 3 Amigos. All these meetings serve the same purpose, which isto help us evaluate how good our result is and help us learn.
Determining winners is nice – but it’s even more important to understand why. I am a big believer in “pockets of greatness” – concept I have read in one of Covey’s books, that we should find the best performers and encourage others to learn from them. This is impossible without qualitative feedback loops and investigating not only why we lose but also why we win.
Feedback improves relationships
I passionately believe that if we accept fast feedback as a key principle, it also improves quality of personal relationships. Once while traveling with my wife we came up with a simple feedback loop. Often while sightseeing in some old town we would forget to think about lunch. Hunger is a powerful demotivator that quickly can make a person annoyed. In our case much faster than we would feel hunger itself. Every time when we feel that one partner is acting weird, we check hunger levels with one simple question “How hungry are you?” and the response is a number from 1-10 that signals how fast we need to find some food. Anything above 8 would signal that this is not the time to search for something special – just find a place to eat.