All organisations need to understand the ‘Closed Loop’ System of applying feedback.  Any identified discrepancy between what is supposed to happen and what is actually happening, which is followed by a rectifying action is known as a Closed Loop; and most organisations will have in place controls which monitor their systems in order for these discrepancies to be identified early.

While normally applied to the processes of the business it is also applied to human behaviour, where a person’s required performance is not met by their actual performance.

The often dreaded 360 degree feedback is one of the main ways in which management attempts to monitor human performance.  It is not an easy process as humans don’t always fit into our preconceived required performance standards.  There can be many reasons why a staff member is performing below standard, and while we can identify the performance we are not always able to immediately identify the reason.

While personal performance is always underscored by personal attitudes and motivation, most aberrations in normally well performing individuals can be dismissed as being temporary – the rectifying action may be easy and when the personal problem is resolved the performance improves.

The real problems occur when continued poor performance impacts on the success of the business; and it is in this situation that we have limited resources to impose the needed change.

We all know the best way to drive a donkey is either by a carrot or a stick; in other words we can demand a change of behaviour and reward compliance; or we can punish or penalise refusal. 

And I am sure we all know the old joke – How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?   One – but the light bulb needs to want to change!

It is on this small carrot that positive performance feedback tries to leverage.  By refraining from criticism or blame; by avoiding negative judgement – and by identifying those positive outcomes already achieved, highlighting further actions that may reach the required standard, we can motivate the person to adopt the suggested changes willingly.  We hope to make the person ‘want to change’

Delivering Positive Performance Feedback

There are five steps in delivering successful Positive Performance Feedback :

1. Identify the Standard – Identifying what is the required performance, we need to know the standard aimed for;

2. Identify Poor Performance – We need to know where the performance falls short of the requirement, or deviates from the standard needed;

3. Know the Rectifying Actions Needed – Before approaching the person involved, we need to have a clear idea of what actions are now needed to bring the performance up to standard – this will form the core of our feedback.

4. Deliver the Feedback in a Positive Manner – We should deliver the feedback in such a way that builds a willingness to change, and

5. Follow Up – we will need to follow up the situation to monitor progress.

In considering what outcome has been achieved we are faced with three possibilities:

a)  our recommended action has been taken, and the results are satisfactory.  In this case we need to offer the carrot; some recognition of achievement.  Without success being reinforced we may find that changed behaviour, in time, will revert back.

b)  our recommended action has been taken,  and the results are not satisfactory, and if this is the case we may need to re-appraise the situation.  Did we define the problem correctly?  Was our suggested change of behaviour really going to give improved performance?  Did we actually give any suggestions for improvement? Or did we merely highlight the discrepancy in an accusing tone, waving a big stick?

Monica – your performance is way below par, pull your socks up or you could be looking for another job.”

While this might be an accurate overview of the situation, it cannot be said to be helpful; how exactly is Monica expected to ‘pull up her socks?’ Re-evaluating the problem and the suggestion solution might bring a different conclusion.

c) our recommended action has NOT been taken, and there appears no intention of any change of behaviour leading to improved performance. If we are faced with this situation, and there appears to be no reasonable reason why the change has not been implemented, we may be in the area of first warnings.

Most businesses are well aware of unacceptable performances; many are aware of the need for feedback, some are even able to give feedback in a positive manner but few carry the process through to follow up. It is in the follow up that the problem can be accurately assessed as being a success or a failure.

Michele @ Trischel

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