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If you want people to hear you, you need to understand what good feedback looks like. But it's not just the feedback that matters. The entire context surrounding you and your employee has a big impact, too. Think of it this way. You're a quarterback. And the quarterback can know the plays perfectly, but things can still go wrong. The other players can make mistakes. The rest of the coaching staff could make an error. The field could be a mess. The referees might be incompetent. You need all of those other factors to be working correctly to increase the chance that your expertise has a chance to help the team.
The same thing is true for feedback. You might know how to craft a great message, but you need a support of context to ensure effective delivery. Embracing feedback is one part of a high-performance culture, but the other parts matter, too. Specifically, I'm referring to accountability, fairness and trust, opportunity, and rewards. They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so you and your colleagues in the leadership team have to spend time thinking about all major aspects of culture, not just one.
First let's consider accountability. This refers to how much we actually require people to accomplish what they say they'll accomplish. Let me frame it in this way. Is under performing consistently accepted where you work? That's low accountability. In contrast, if someone under performs a lot, and as a result they face real consequences, that's high accountability. For feedback to be effective, you have to have a high accountability workplace. The lower the accountability, the less serious people will take feedback since they don't believe there will be any consequences.
Next, consider fairness and trust. By fairness, I mean a genuine sense that people will be treated consistently and ethically as decisions are made. This produces a sense of trust, which is the very thing required for people to feel comfortable listening to you. They have to trust you, otherwise great feedback can be wasted. It's also important when thinking about culture to think about opportunity. If you want people to think about using your feedback, if you want them to feel motivated in general, they need to believe there are opportunities to grow and advance.
People need to feel that trying matters. Opportunity can take many forms, including promotions. new responsibilities, or access to certain resources or training. People need to believe in the company's mission, but they also need to believe in their personal future. When they do, feedback sticks a lot better. Finally, let's consider rewards. The things we do to say thank you and to recognize great performance have far reaching influence. In low performance cultures, you see a lack of use of rewards, or worse yet, lots of people receiving unearned rewards all the time.
In high performance cultures, leaders understand the need to connect the use of rewards with the production of excellence. When excellence is rewarded, people are more likely to believe that the quality of what they do matters, and that makes feedback a resource they desire. A focus on feedback is interesting, but it's only one part of the larger culture. As a member of the leadership team, you'll soon see that each aspect of your company culture works to support or hinder the other aspects. If you want feedback to work, it needs to be surrounded by a workplace defined by accountability, fairness and trust, opportunity, and proper rewards.
That's when your skill as a quarterback can actually help the team win.
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