There has been wide debate over the past 50 years whether feedback actually gives rise to improvement in performance.
Performance reviews, and 360-degree feedback processes, jointly referred to as feedback, are widespread in Western corporations. Research data varies, but perhaps as many as 95 percent of Fortune 2000 companies use feedback interventions. There are numerous processes, systems, and training programs specifically developed on how to give feedback effectively. Feedback interventions consume a significant amount of time, energy, and money, and create anxiety, both for the giver and the receiver. Leaders and managers the world over shudder when they hear the phrase: “annual performance review season. ‘Feedback’ is a word used in so many contexts, meaning so many things, that it is like saying ‘talking’. To have a decent research-led conversation about feedback, we need to get more granular about what we actually mean by this word. Do we mean telling people once a year how they have done compared to their goals? Or letting someone know what his or her career options might be? Or telling someone they are not doing high quality work on a client? Telling a high performer what they could do to be even better? Telling someone whose job is at risk that they need to lift their game or risk being fired? With the goal of growth and development in mind, instead of sharing information, we might try asking more questions that help people make their own connections about their performance. Behavior change requires building new habits. The goal of asking good questions is not to generate insight about poor performance, which goes back to creating a status threat, but to identify new habits to build, new pathways to form.