Focus on conversations, not feedback

Throughout the eight years that I have spent in corporate life, performance feedback conversations have been the most awkward. Not because of my performance, but because humans are not tuned for feedback. The minds of many people tend to switch off and get defensive when they are told that they are about to get feedback.

Trust me, it would be awkward for the managers also.

But the feedbacks that I have learnt the most from are small talks and discussions that I used to have with my managers when the sword of feedback was not hanging over us.

But sadly, many organizations still do go with feedbacks. Over the years, many organizations have decided to do it more often and some have decided to call it a different name. But a rose by any name is still a rose.

You know what people do in the simplest way. They talk. And hence, performance should not be feedbacks, it should be about conversations. And once these most awaited events of the year are moved out and the focus is on talking and listening, many organizations will certainly become simple.

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There is a fundamental difference between conversation and feedback. A feedback is one-way traffic, a conversation is more of a two-way traffic. A feedback focuses on the past performance, a conversation focuses on the future. A feedback, let us face it, is a scientific way of putting the positives and negatives together whereas a conversation is a natural way of two adults discussing their thoughts.

Now, it is a fine line that one must tread between feedback and conversation. The one way of making this happen is to make the conversations more often and less forced. Both the managers and the team need to be educated on this. The conversations also need to be structured to ensure the right message is passed on. I am sure the HR team will have to take a lead on this.

These conversations can be successful only if two more things are done – the conversation becomes two-way and the conversation is documented. A 360-degree feedback, anonymous preferably, can be a possible solution for the same. A peer feedback can also be incorporated. Using a simple word processor to note the conversation can also be simple a way to start documenting the conversation. Or leveraging a host of tools available online can also be a solution. So, let us start focusing on the most natural thing that humans do – talk and not focus on feedback. Because the most natural thing is the simplest thing to do.

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