Feedback. Do you know where the term comes from?
NASA. Feedback was how the team at mission control could see where their rocket was in relation to the planned trajectory. If you think about it, that’s still the purpose of feedback. We plan a trajectory and then our manager and team give us feedback to help us to check that we are staying on track and not straying off course and into potential problems.
Taking that analogy further and relating it to yachting, in the best-case scenario the absence of feedback would mean we wasted time going in the wrong direction and missing deadlines. In the worst-case scenario, a lack of feedback could send you head-first into a dangerous, perhaps even fatal, situation.
So, feedback really is a gift, and what do you do when someone gives you a gift? You thank them and you return the favour when it’s your turn to do so. Think of it as a mirror showing you how you appear to others, our view of ourselves is one sided, perspective is everything.
For that to work, feedback needs to be a 360-degree process. If you are the head of department I would encourage you not to see feedback from your team as that person disrespecting your stripes or your position, but as a welcome aid to developing your skills in managing lots of different personalities.
It should be part of the culture and completely normal, not a once a month formality or a surprise. Feedback should also be balanced, only giving feedback when people are off track is not helpful, we need to know when we are on track too.
Some tips for giving and receiving feedback:
- Change the language
My pet hate is the use of ‘negative feedback’. There is no such thing. There is criticism, which is opinion based, and there is developmental feedback which has the intention of giving someone an insight into their performance or behaviour and allows them to develop. That’s a really positive thing – no negativity there!
Positive feedback can also be described as motivational. Again, there is a difference between praise, which is lovely but not particularly helpful, and motivational feedback which tells you exactly what you did, and why it was so great! That way you know what to keep doing in order to keep delivering the good stuff!
- Ask for it.
If your Captain or head of department is busy and preoccupied that is not a good time to ask, but if you can see an opportunity or can give them some notice – then why not!? Be specific about the feedback you need, is it about your grooming, guest service, technical skills or development in your role? The clearer you are about what you need from them the more useful the feedback will be.
- Give it!
If you see someone doing something right, tell them. If you see someone doing something that doesn’t serve them, tell them. Deal with it as soon after you have observed it as it reasonable. The longer you leave it the harder it is to tackle and the less power it has. That counts whether you are giving developmental or motivational feedback.
- Question the intention.
If you are ever unsure whether you should be delivering feedback simply ask yourself what your intention is. If it is for their benefit, their safety, their reputation or their development – do it. If it will help build their confidence, recognises their contribution or demonstrates your appreciation of them – do it.
If it is because you don’t do it that way, you don’t like it, you would rather it was done your way, just be aware that it is likely to be about your opinion or your own perspective and that you could be diminishing their right to their own ideas and values.
Compromise is key in these situations and a lighter touch conversation would be better. No one should be forced to change who they are or their own values, pressure to do that might give you superficial conformity but there will also be underlying resentment. Feedback on behaviour that is difficult to change may often make the person self-conscious and anxious about their behaviour and affect their emotional well-being.
- It’s not just what you say.
The acceptability of feedback often depends on how it is given, rather than what is said, tone of voice and body language are as important as the words used. We are all fluent in body language and that includes picking up on the micro-inequities that tell us what people are really thinking. Be mindful of your non-verbal communication too.
Here’s a really simple framework for delivering feedback, be it motivational or developmental.
It’s as easy as A, B, C, D..!
A: Ask – “Is now a good time?” “Can I give you some feedback?”
This is a good practice to get into because if now isn’t a good time you might as well be talking to the wall!
B: Behaviour – what did you see, observe or hear.. the more specific the better, avoid judgement – just state the facts “when you brought the tender in you were going faster than necessary given the current” or “when you checked on the guests I noticed that you stayed close to the door and didn’t ask them if they needed anything”
C: Consequences – the most important bit. This is the ‘so what!?’ of feedback. If there are no consequences, positive or otherwise, then it’s not feedback – it’s opinion.
So that might go like this “and that meant that the tender didn’t have enough time to stop when you reached the platform and it hit the back of the boat, which jolted the guests and could cause damage to both tender and boat, that would create extra work and be costly to repair” you’ll notice there is no blame or personal attack in this statement – it is fact based and detailed.
Or, “guests are not always aware of your presence or may expect to be asked rather than having to take the initiative when they want something. Then when they do not have their needs met they become impatient and frustrated making our jobs harder and potentially eroding our tip potential.”
D: Discuss – “what is your perspective on what happened?” or “how confident are you with that aspect of your role?” this gives the person an opportunity to reply and respond and can help you to understand where they might need extra training or support.
So remember… Feedback is a GIFT