How to Correctly Use Feedback to Strengthen Teams
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published January 21, 2021
Feedback is powerful. In the workplace, it can build or destroy. Finding the right mindset and words are skills for effective leadership. Team building specialist David Roppo helps leaders train struggling frontline managers to build high-performance teams. He shares his Reverse Feedback Directed Outcome (RFDO) method for high-performance team-building with manufacturers and other businesses during this week’s #USAMfgHour on Twitter.
Finding the Words
Exceptional communication skills are necessary at all levels of the workplace. At times, that communication may seem awkward to deliver. Roppo asked the group, “Is the mere thought of delivering feedback to team members more stressful and painful than listening to fingernails slide down a chalkboard for eight hours? Be honest.”
“For me, I have to give feedback to teammates regularly. Sometimes it is a positive experience and sometimes it is a stressful one,” said Radwell International.
“No, not for me,” said Cleveland Deburring Machine Company. “I like getting feedback, so I assume everyone wants to know where they stand as well.”
“Me too,” said Chenango Valley Technologies. “Without it, you don't know what is and what is not working. Good point, (Cleveland Deburring). Honesty is key. If you do not have that there will never be change or advancement. If you are not getting better, you are DYING.”
“I would love more communication internally,” said Smartflow.
“Communication is crucial,” Roppo said. “You can use the RFDO method of feedback to teach collaboration as well.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to give feedback,” said the Artus Corporation. “It gets easier once you realize that everyone just wants to do a good job.”
“It can be depending on how it's done,” said Snaptron. “I think it should be a two-way street. Managers should also be getting feedback from their employees.”
“I've been a creative director, owner, and a professor for many years, so it's very common practice for me,” said Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative. “I train students and staff on good critiquing techniques and how to take criticism, so it's no issue here. However, I do see many others struggle with it.”
“I don't believe so. If the feedback remains respectful and solely said to better the individual and the team then there should be no issues,” said Crescent Software.
“It will depend on the kind of feedback I'm delivering. Good = easy. Not-so-good = more challenging,” said Drive Source International - Dynamatic.
“The only time I find myself with these feelings is if it's negative feedback,” said Obsidian Manufacturing. “But even then, I try to remember that communication is key and that we need to learn from our mistakes. Keeping an open mind is the best approach for any circumstance.”
“True! But most of the time feedback is negative, and it doesn't have to be,” said Roppo.
“Giving feedback can be difficult,” said Striven. “Especially for folks working remotely- tone can be very easily misconstrued in a digital format. To eliminate this our team always strives to be honest, kind, and communicate as effectively as we can.”
“Yes, digital is very hard to interpret,” said DuraTech Industries. “It's important to think it through. ‘Do I need to send this in an Email? Would a phone call be better?’”
“There's always tension when delivering feedback. Feedback brings about change, and tension is a part of it,” said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing.
“It's a top-down mentality,” said Dar-Tech. “A company I worked for had us read a book (name escapes me at the moment) then ask for feedback from four coworkers. Eventually, you were asked, too. And it followed a formula, so it was constructive. It made it easier to do after that.”
“It is definitely better, to be honest, but forming how you relay that honesty is also important. But it's the best path,” said DuraTech.
“Yes, especially when working with family, though I'm able to be very honest with my sister,” said Home Building Solutions.
“Delivering feedback has become easier as I’ve gotten older,” said Nick Rivers of Obsidian. “It’s the bad feedback that used to be a struggle - the realization of my personality type was very eye-opening because I’m not alone. NOW, I see it as a challenge!”
“For me, I have to give feedback to teammates regularly. Sometimes it is a positive experience and sometimes it is a stressful one,” said Radwell.
According to Gallup research, managers generally don't know what to say. Roppo said that only 14.5% of managers polled strongly agree that they are effective at giving feedback. “We can do better,” he said. “You must use the most powerful tool in a coach's utility belt - the question!”
Traditionally, methods of feedback are negative, critical, and one-dimensional. “Have you ever been served a feedback sandwich, clobbered by an attagirl/attaboy boomerang, or blindsided by a wrecking ball?,” Roppo asked.
“Personally no, but I've always encouraged my managers to be open with me and provide real-time feedback,” said Snaptron.
“Definitely! Feedback definitely isn't always clear and some managers definitely need a lesson on giving feedback that is easy to understand and offers actionable points of improvement,” said Zero Surge.
“I used to be in sales. I once had a manager tell me, ‘the customer came in looking for a salesman but unfortunately found you,’” said Cleveland Deburring. “He then tried to explain to me what I did wrong. Needless to say, I had already tuned out.”
“I learned how NOT to treat people because of the way I have been treated,” said Rivers. “I also used to get very defensive when I thought I was right. Then this: ‘Be right! and unemployed or Listen! - and keep a paycheck!’ Compromise goes a long way.”
“I actually get annoyed that I don't get enough feedback through the company,” said Home Building Solutions. “I feel like I gauge the work I do from social media and my analytics. But to be fair to them, I work remotely.”
“Striven has been absolutely phenomenal, but from living through those early post-college jobs, I have most definitely found myself on the receiving end of less than positive criticism,” said Striven Software. “It felt more like a target on my back than it did a motivator to improve.”
“Funny thing: I was taught the ‘feedback sandwich,’: said DSI. “I still use it from time to time, depending on who is my receiver. I've been on the receiving end of all of these.”
“There has been a lot of that in my career,” said Radwell. “With experience comes the ability to see things for what they are and to consider the source when it comes to feedback. It all has value but doesn't need to be internalized.”
- The Wrecking Ball method: One-dimensional, negative, straight up criticism.
- Attaboy/Attagirl Boomerang: Disingenuous recognition and praise, which is intentionally thrown out to come back around bearing a negative, feedback payload.
- Negative Feedback Sandwich: Takes the "Attaboy/Attagirl Boomerang" a step further by adding disingenuous recognition and praise on the backside.
“The Negative Feedback Sandwich is a critical cold-cut sandwiched between a sweet Hawaiian roll,” Roppo said. Traditional feedback like “The Wrecking Ball” is counterproductive to increasing performance. Then, Roppo threw out an example: “The Tweet you just posted was ineffective. You did that all wrong. Can you correct that for me?”
“I bet that didn’t make you feel all warm, fuzzy, and productive,” he said.
“Maybe I’ve got thick skin, but I wouldn't be bothered by that statement providing they explained why it was ineffective and gave suggestions to make it more so,” said Cleveland Deburring. “I don't need to feel warm and fuzzy at work, I just need to know what's expected of me.”
“That is a great point,” said CVT. “How to do it better. That changes it.”
“I don't need the warm and fuzzy either,” said DuraTech. “But I had a manager at a former place of employment years ago who instead of giving me feedback, would just redo my work completely, and claim it as her own, but would turn it in late, then blame me for the missed deadline.”
“Good feedback doesn't come in the form of angry vague criticism,” said Zero Surge. “A kindly-worded critique with points of interest to focus on is always the best way to handle issues with someone’s performance. We've found that this almost always helps people address their issues.”
“Wrecking Ball? I’ve seen that coming and had to stand there and let it slam into me,” said Rivers. “Makes a guy feel really weak. That is why I never want to treat another person that way. I always look for their insight and maybe tweak it.”
“At that point, it feels less like feedback and more like a finishing move,” said Striven. “They might get a better response from their coworker if it was a dialogue of what could be improved instead of just, ‘I don't like it, figure out how to fix it on your own.’”
“I can take The Wrecking Ball, but I need to know WHY it is wrong,” said Rusine. “Then perhaps I can explain why I did it the way I did or do it the way, they wanted it done.”
Delivery of the Message
According to Office Vibe’s State of Global Engagement Study, 96% of employees polled said they want regular feedback but very few managers are delivering. This costs companies billions of dollars in lost productivity and underperformance, Roppo said.
“My proprietary method of feedback (RFDO) is painless, positive, and effective,” said Roppo. “For example, if you could rewind the Twitter feed, what would you change about your tweet? How can you apply that to future posts? I like that strategy. Let’s put it into play.”
“Similar to how children are taught manners,” said DSI. “Instead of punishing a kid for hitting another, we might ask, ‘Why did you feel the need to hit that person? What would've been a better way to solve the problem?’ I'm on a kid kick.”
“That is a team solving a possible problem and working through it together to get better results,” said CVT.
“The teamwork approach is awesome, too!,” said DSI. “‘Let's work through this together’ will have a much better response than, ‘You did that all wrong.’"
“I see. Kind of like taking the monkey off your back and putting it on theirs by asking questions and having them solve the problem. Therapy approach,” said Dar-Tech.
“Sort of, but it does more - it's engaging and involving them,” said Roppo. “Making people feel that their opinions, ideas, and solutions matter because they do!”
“Now, that is some great feedback! Work through the problem together,” said Snaptron.
“Just like almost everyone in a marketing role, we're in love with the analytics page of social media sites,” said Zero Surge. “It is essential to look at the numbers attached to each one of your posts so you know KPI's and make improvements from there.”
Roppo then went on to say that the RFDO method of feedback is the gateway to high performance. Re-training and re-skilling managers to use this two-dimensional communication strategy will accelerate productivity and performance. It also can dramatically impact the success of your organization, he said.
If you could use the RFDO method to deliver feedback painlessly and effectively, what kind of impact would that have? Ultimately, how could it impact company growth and profitability?
“It would be a healthy open-and-honest environment,” said CVT. “One in which everyone thrives. Isn't that we are all after. I work in a group like this. I can't think where. Oh right, it is right here on #USAMfgHour.”
“Employees are more productive,” said Obsidian. “It builds the team atmosphere. The mindset all around is much more positive.”
“That would be having a healthier, non-toxic, working environment having positive employees and positive members of the community. Both the workplace and the community gains from it,” said Rusine.
“Absolutely agree, #USAMfgHour,” said Roppo. “We need more healthy, non-toxic working environments!”
“I imagine productivity would increase. People do better work when they feel appreciated. In turn, that would increase growth and profitability,” said DSI.
“I think we can all agree that whenever a team can work effectively together, and be around a positive environment, it can only lead to good things,” said Artus.
According to Gallup, managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Highly skilled and trained managers who can deliver feedback and engage tend to contribute to 48% higher profit to their companies, Roppo said.
“We've always found that patience, empathy, and the will to listen are the most important qualities of a good manager,” said Zero Surge.
“That’s a great stat,” Rivers said of the Gallup poll. “Plus take into account gender, generational and personality differences!! I applaud - a standing ovation of ONE!”
The chat’s closing thoughts moved on to surmising that communicating effectively, delivering meaningful, and impactful feedback while also engaging the hearts, hands, and minds of employees is everything. Companies who can master the art of RFDO feedback can significantly increase productivity, performance, and profitability, Roppo said.
“Everyone knows this isn't just a work concept, right? Well, unless you're married to your job - it's ALL about maintaining relationships,” said Rivers.
Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.