February 4, 2005
Excerpts: Tell Me How I'm Doing - Part VI
"That's right, Scott, feedback is important to all of us. It's the foundation of all interpersonal relationships. It determines how people think, how they feel, how they react to others, and to a large extent, it determines how people act in their daily responsibilities."
The coach paused while she looked over the group of managers to ensure that her message was having the impact she intended. Then she looked back toward Scott and continued, "Organizations like this one spend a great deal of time, effort, and money instituting programs to increase and maintain employee productivity. All you have to do is scan the business section of any bookstore and you'll find dozens of books intended to get employees to work more efficiently and effectively. Now I'm not putting those books down by any means, but what I want you to understand is that at the foundation of all worker productivity is a basic need for interpersonal feedback. Without it people tend to demonstrate problems in the workplace: the types of problems that we spend far too much money and resources on trying to solve. And with appropriate feedback people tend to do the things that those books on the shelves attempt to describe."
The coach nodded at her own comment and added, "So, how important is feedback to each of us? Well, let's just say that it's the lifeblood for every person in this room and every mentally healthy person in this organization."
There was an eerie silence in the room as the significance of what the coach had said began to sink in. It was obvious that the managers were taking personal inventory of their own feedback style. A couple of managers looked down at their notes to avoid the coach's eyes. One manager nervously glanced at her watch. Scott stared blankly at a wall and then at the coach.
With her message made, the coach made a concluding comment. "Thanks for your attendance this morning. I appreciate your participation. I especially appreciate Scott being our test subject. I hope you'll all give him an extra dose of feedback to hopefully compensate for what we did to him. Is that okay Scott?"
"I'll be okay," Scott replied.
"In our next class we'll continue our discussion on feedback and find out exactly how important it is to everyone, including our employees and family members."
As people were leaving, the coach walked over to Scott and said, "I really hope you are okay. The envelope exercise can be a pretty unnerving demonstration."
Scott nodded that he was okay.
"Now that you've experienced the power of feedback firsthand, how many of the problems you experience with employees and perhaps your family members are related to your style of giving feedback?"
Stunned, Scott replied, "I've never thought about it."
To which the coach merely said, "Perhaps before our next class you'll have an opportunity to give it some thought. The answer may surprise you."
Throughout that day, and for several days that followed, Scott found himself reflecting upon the coach's questions. At first he conceded that perhaps a few of the problems with his employees could be related to his failure to "give good feedback," as she called it. But there wasn't any way that most of his problems were caused by it. As the days rolled on, he began to question that belief.
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About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.