Tag Archives: feedback

Overcoming that ‘stupid’ feeling: a lesson for managers

I came across this excellent blog post by Christopher VanLang this afternoon, which talks about how to overcome the ‘stupid’ feeling that many PhD students get at various points during their studies brought on by the nature of the learning experience, and various hurdles we have to overcome to reach that glorious end goal.

As an Organisational Psychologist and HR Manager, I immediately started thinking about the truth in this, not just in my role as a PhD student but also as an employee and manager in a work organisation.

Of course, as adults, we have a responsibility to make sure we are equipt to do our jobs but managers have a really important part to play here too. I have, numerous times, had conversations with members of my team about difficulties they were having when it was abundantly clear that they were struggling with lack of confidence. I knew that they could do the job, but they didn’t…they felt ‘stupid’.

These are my thoughts on the ways that managers (or colleagues for that matter) to help avoid that ‘stupid’ feeling:

  • Give continuous, honest feedback. If someone does something well, let them know why so that they can learn from it
  • Let people make mistakes. Only by letting people the freedom to make mistakes will they learn. Of course, this doesn’t mean allowing serious issues to go unmanaged. It does, however, mean not micro-managing every detail and…
  • Focus on solutions not problems. Nothing is achieved by dwelling on issues. Discuss it, then move on to the solution.
  • Help them find their own solution. No good comes from the attitude, “it’ll be quicker if I do it myself” – we all do it, I know I do when I’m busy, but this doesn’t achieve anything. Ask “talk me through what you are planning to do” and give feedback

I feel incredibly lucky that I have not only a great PhD supervisor but also a great manager at my ‘paid’ job who help me through the ‘stupid’ times and I hope I do the same for my team and colleagues.


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Don’t over cook your carrot!

I came across this really interesting article (via @ManageU) about Building a Better Carrot with tips on how to design better compensation systems in times when budgets are tight. There are some great examples on here of organisations using inventive incentives to boost productivity of staff and reports of them working – steak dinners, peers driven cash awards, celebratory parties.

But, at the risk of sounding like one of the “eye rollers” that Rutzick refers to, I think it’s important to treat this advice with caution…

Steak dinners only work for so long. If you introduce the concept that people will be rewarded for meeting their targets that fast becomes the only reason that they do so. What happens if budgets are cut so steak dinners aren’t on the menu any more (bad pun, I know!) – your staff will no longer have any reason to reach their targets. If targets weren’t being reached in the first place the reward is not the problem, there must be another reason.

I was alarmed at the example of the lawyers being given an extra $75 for each case completed above target. They said that “some of the guys worked nights and weekends to get the extra money and some didn’t” – for the people who are working all of these extra hours you are risking burn-out and mistakes, and for those that aren’t it is inherently unfair. What if one lawyer had a small child so couldn’t do the extra hours? It creates stress and competition and, in the long term, could lead to a reduction in productivity. With a target like this, how do you know that you are getting quality case management and not just keeping the numbers up?

That said, the examples of feedback are spot on for me. Empiorical research has shown that creating an environment where employees recieve feedback on how they’re getting on, helping them to feel that they are making a contribution, really works. This is particularly true when the feedback is unexpected.

The example in the article of Joan Klein, who received some silk flowers as a thank you from a manager for running some training for her, is a great example of how reward can work. Giving someone an unexpected reward – when it’s a thank you, box of chocolates or envelope of cash – will give them a boost in motivation without tying their motivation to the reward. As Klein says, she would run the training again but she wouldn’t be doing it for the reward (because she doesn’t expect one), she would do it because she wants to!

My advice is this – if your staff aren’t meeting their targets don’t throw money at them to fix the problem, find out what the problem is. Are the targets too tough? Do they care about what they’re doing? If you want to recognise people going the extra mile give them a one-off, unexpected reward – it can be cash, a present, time off, training. Just make it meaningful.

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Filed under motivation, reward

Feedback – it’s easier than you think

Anyone has been on any kind of management training will, I’m sure, have been told about the virtues of giving good feedback. This makes it particularly surprising that in my years of experience as an HR Manager it is one of the things that seems to be most commonly lacking in workplaces.

Is it really that difficult to just be honest with people, tell theFeedbackm what you think, let them know how they’re getting on? Well…yes! Perhaps it is a side effect of living in a litigous society, where managers are worried about saying the wrong thing, or perhaps it’s a bit too touchy feely?

It doesn’t have to be such a terrifying thing! In my experience, and based on some quite solid empirical evidence, these are the key characteristics of successful feedback:

  • Provide information, not opinion. Give examples and reasons for the feedback, not statements of opinion
  • Be positive! Positive feedback has been shown to be far more motivational than negative. It’s all too easy to give feedback when something goes wrong, say when something goes well too!
  • Acknowledge the recipient’s point of view – ask their opinion about how they are getting on, listen and acknowledge what they have to say and don’t be quick to make judgements before you have done so
  • Be sincere – most people are incredibly perceptive and if your feedback isn’t genuine, they will feel it even if not at a conscious level

It doesn’t have to be a challenge giving feedback – most people really appreciate it and it will encourage a more honest and open working relationship.

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