Much is said these days about Millennials craving feedback (recognition, acknowledgement, praise) and some, especially those in the more senior age groups, resent this. In truth, we all need feedback, not only Millennials. Perhaps Millennials are simply more honest about this.
Our growth, maturity, emotional intelligence, achievement of goals – any forward movement in life – are all dependent, in one way or another, on getting feedback. Without feedback we do not know whether we are making progress toward where we want to be. We do of course need both feedback that confirms our course and that which will tell us when we are off track. I think Millennials know that too.
No one has ever achieved anything great without paying attention to feedback. “Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” as Marcus Buckinham has told us. If leaders are, in part, meant to help those they lead achieve great things, we should embrace this skill wholeheartedly rather than resent or fear it.
Feedback is in fact one of the most powerful tools we have in our toolkit, but it is one that can do harm as well as good. In a recent HBR article Jack Zenger writes, “Our findings suggest that if you want to be seen as a good feedback-giver, you should proactively develop the skill of giving praise as well as criticism.”
Given the power that feedback has, whether it be praise or criticism, it is no wonder that there is such a proliferation of articles and workshops on this topic. But where should we start in developing this skill?
Beyond all the techniques and rationale for the practice of giving feedback is one simple element – being a leader who cares. When we care, feedback that encourages real growth in others is something that comes a whole lot more naturally. Feedback that is built on caring first, rather than technique, is more likely to be authentic in both the giving and receiving of that feedback.
When we care we are far more ready to acknowledge great effort, encourage progress in others, and help them redirect when necessary. We are also far more able to give feedback that is constructive and nurtures their success.