Leaders at all levels need feedback to be their best. And according to DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2021 research, many leaders want more feedback than they’re currently getting. They want to know where their weaknesses are so they can improve. They want to know what’s working and if they’re a good leader. Annual feedback doesn’t cut it anymore. They want and need continuous feedback to be most effective.
So how can L&D professionals help leaders get continuous feedback? In this blog, we’ll discuss best practices for implementing continuous feedback in your organization. But first, let’s define continuous feedback and identify how it’s different from one-time feedback for leaders.
What Is Continuous Feedback?
Continuous feedback means that leaders receive frequent information about their performance from their managers, colleagues, and team members on an ongoing basis. Continuous feedback can be used to check on key behaviors across a range of critical leadership moments. The ongoing nature of continuous feedback is the critical ingredient most often missing for leaders as they focus on changing old habits or making new ones.
How do continuous feedback systems differ from episodic, one-time feedback practices? When you are hiking a new trail, you don't look at your map when you start, then put it away and not look at it again until you reach the end of the trail. You consult your map frequently to help you reach your destination.
One-time feedback is like looking at your map when you start and then never looking at it again. You risk getting lost, taking a less efficient route, or not planning for what’s ahead. In this metaphor, continuous feedback is keeping your map with you and making sure you're on target and headed to the right place so you reach the summit.
That said, one-time feedback should complement continuous feedback. You don’t have to give up your 360 feedback tools when you move to a continuous feedback model.
4 Best Practices for Implementing Continuous Feedback
Here are four best practices to make it easy for your leaders to give and receive feedback more regularly:
1. Make it quick. This goes for both leaders seeking feedback from others and how feedback is given. Leaders should proactively seek feedback from others yet focus on a small set of relevant and specific behaviors. It shouldn’t be a long list checking how they’re doing in every skill area they use on the job; focus on a few specific skills they are developing today.
2. Make it timely. Leaders should ask for feedback soon after the event, such as a presentation or team meeting. And leaders should, in turn, give feedback to their team and colleagues in the same manner—providing feedback as close as possible to the moment a behavior occurs.
3. Make it helpful and sincere. While we all love positive feedback, it shouldn’t be the only type of feedback leaders seek or give. Everyone needs balanced feedback to understand where they have weaknesses and where their strengths can shine even more. Exploring balanced feedback can be uncomfortable for many. Yet if we remember to remain sincere and empathetic, we can create a psychologically safe environment where both parties are able to be vulnerable.
4. Incorporate technology. Last but not least, find a continuous feedback system or tool to use that’s simple to implement in your organization. Note that these systems are not traditional survey-based platforms but are tools where technology drives the process for giving, receiving, and reviewing feedback. And mobile compatibility is key.
Learn more about adopting a continuous feedback process for your leaders in DDI’s blog.