Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feedback

It’s the loud screeching noise you hear when someone is trying to talk to you over an old CB radio.  Or even better, it’s the earth shaking squeal that comes from the monitors as an amateur artist attempts to belt out their favorite tune.  How embarrassing it must be when you are warming up your vocals and the sound guy just can’t get it right so your audience is blessed with the ever so annoying sound of feedback.  It’s an awful noise, one that leaves people yearning to slam their heads into a wall somewhere.  Feedback is no fun.  Feedback is the product of insufficient work.    Feedback is also a reality of work.  As professionals in a company we are given feedback and we have mid-year and end-of-year performance reviews.  Each company does it differently, but all companies have some kind of system.  And like the nasty noise that causes masses to shrivel in pain, this feedback is awful as well.

Feedback and sharing opportunities for someone to grow are not in and of themselves bad.  People need to learn where areas of opportunity exist and address them accordingly.  This is a universal understanding, yet, the method in which businesses go about this put a rather ugly scowl on my otherwise beautiful face.  Recently I had a conversation with a teary-eyed woman minutes after her performance meeting with her manager.  She is one of the most giving people I know, she’d do anything for anyone.  She is all about making things convenient for others.  This carries into her work very well.  She is not analytical though, nor is she one to call people out for not knowing something they had been given training on previously.  Parts of her goals include these things that she isn’t best at.  I looked into her red eyes and saw discouragement and personal hurt.  She took her meeting and performance review personally, as should any good employee.  She lamented at how her manager only talked about things she was not good at or things she needed to improve on.  She was discouraged because none of the things she had improved on or even done above and beyond her responsibilities were recognized.  She was not praised for her good, but only reprimanded for her opportunities for improvement. 

I’m 5’10” and weigh a good 180lbs.  I’m faster than anyone my age or older at any time on the basketball court.  I am stronger than most my height, too.  It makes no sense for a coach to come in and really work on my post moves and talk to me about defensive rebounds.  Because I’m quick, as soon as a shot goes up I take off to the other end of the floor for an easy outlet pass and bucket; works like magic every time.  If the coach wanted me to work on my post moves because he wanted me to play center and really develop my area of weakness, post moves, it’d be a waste of time.  I’m not going to be good as a center, that’s not my strength, my strength is being strong and fast, taking it at people in the paint and drawing fouls.  For those of you sports enthusiasts this makes perfect sense.  The parallel here with my sad, sad friend is that focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses is the best way to improve production in any business. 

If you have someone who is good at A and bad at B, don’t try to make them good at B, it takes away their time and effort from A.  So as B’s quality raises A’s drops and what you get is a mediocre all-around employee.  Why not focus on the strength instead of the weakness?  Pair someone who is strong in B and weak in A with the other person and let them both thrive at their strength and complement one another in weak areas.  Employers spend so much time trying to make people better at things they are naturally not good at instead of focusing on what they are good at.  Companies would have more effective and satisfied employees if they weren’t oppressed by their weaknesses but rather applauded for their strengths.  If someone is good at wood chucking, like our wood chuck friends, let them chuck wood, as much as a wood chuck would chuck wood.  Focusing on positives gains more respect and response from people anyway, and that carries into employees.  Feedback hurts the ears and morale, say no to bad feedback and say yes to empowering employees, then sit back, relax, and watch your company thrive.

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