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Will feedback help us improve?

If we want to get better at anything the most valuable thing we can have is somebody to tell us, with complete honesty, how we are currently performing. Yet, the overwhelming majority of people feel uncomfortable asking for, or giving, honest feedback.

Top class sports coaches are often known for the bluntness of their feedback. And top performing athletes know how to take that feedback and use it to motivate their improvement. It’s one of the many reasons that they reach the top.

For most people, the reaction to any critical feedback (however constructive) is to become defensive. To search for reasons why what they are being told is unfair or inaccurate. The process can too easily become confrontational and stressful.

Too many managers never ‘find’ the time to give feedback to their teams because it’s uncomfortable. Any feedback offered tends to be vague and biased towards the positive aspects that are easier to talk about.

Any business that seriously wants to improve its service and the outcomes experienced by customers’ needs to get on board with giving and receiving feedback.
• Contractors tend to be averse to asking for feedback at the end of the procurement process – whether they win or lose. It’s easier to assume that the customer had some kind of hidden agenda behind their decision.
• Post project reviews are often superficial. Customers are reluctant to say what they really thought of the contractor’s performance. And contractors aren’t brave enough to press for real, candid answers.
• Contractors rarely provide their supply chain with the feedback they need to improve.

Improving the quality of how we give, ask for and receive feedback is an important aspect of our organisational development. A large part of the secret is making life easier for the person giving the feedback by not responding defensively and listening actively to what we are told.

When we can give feedback dispassionately and honestly, and when we can learn to welcome feedback and probe for the reasons behind the comments, we are truly on the road to improvement.

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