Communication Leadership skills Organization

Four Kinds of Feedback in an Excellent Organization

Why does an organization exist? In essence, to produce something, whether that is a product or a service. And in order to exist in the future, this production needs to be sustainable. It means providing high quality products and services at a reasonable cost (to the organization, the employee, the environment, and society). Two of the most important aspects in the organizational equation are the cost and the productivity of your personnel. As an organization, you want everyone to perform and produce optimally. You limit the cost side of the equation by ensuring a low staff turnover, low absenteeism, and stimulating (organizationally) proactive behaviors. And you improve performance by focusing on motivation, especially intrinsic motivation.

Sustainability is the key

When it comes to personnel, an emphasis on sustainability and sustainable employability is necessary. The sustainable qualities a team member brings to the table in a 21st century organization boil down to:

  • Analytic qualities
  • Creative qualities
  • The ability to organize
  • The ability to influence, including relationship-building skills

Challenge, facilitate, support

Analytic and creative qualities have both a general and an expertise-specific part to them, whereas the remaining two qualities are more general in nature. Part of a leader’s task is to challenge a team member to broaden the boundaries beyond the comfort zone they work in, and simultaneously, to facilitate and support the team member in this endeavor.

How does feedback fit into the sustainability picture?

The general problem with peer feedback is that it often feels like (or is) an excuse to lecture a colleague. When a leader stimulates team members to give each other feedback, what is he or she really asking? And why? When a team member isn’t functioning, for example, whose responsibility is it to address this issue? Feedback becomes interesting when it helps broaden a team member’s four sustainability qualities. The feedback team members really require is the knowledge that what they produce meets expectations, and that the way they produce their results is sustainable—for themselves, for team resources, and for organizational resources.

This means four different kinds of feedback are necessary.

Meeting end-user expectations

The obvious persons to ask for feedback regarding end-user expectations are the end-users themselves, perhaps using interviews or questionnaires with standardized questions regarding quality, service, and support, for example. Ideally, the organization’s quality controller should give feedback, too, or an expert who is able to assess the delivered product or service and suggest improvements. The focus should be on mastery, as discussed in a previous blog.


This region is about stimulating the four sustainability aspects above (analysis, creativity, organizing, and influence) and is a task for both the team leader and the human resources department. An ideal strategy is transformational leadership, supported by good career development, via coaching by the HR-department. Under organizing skills, you should also help the team member consider their own personal resources in terms of time and energy: does the energy expended balance the energy their work gives them (burn-out prevention)?

Team resources

These days, products and services are seldom the result of individual endeavors—they are the result of collaboration. In the first instance, it occurs with the own team members; but intra-organizational and sometimes even extra-organizational collaboration may be involved as well. Feedback gathered from collaborators is the ideal source, yet the way it is collected should preferably be via anonymous questionnaires. Subjects questioned could include relationship skills, how they rate the team member’s expertise, accuracy and timeliness, for example. The main reason to use anonymous data is to prevent feedback from either being a pat-on-the-back on one extreme, to a dressing-down on the other end of the scale. Anonymity increases the chance for honest answers, which provides an accurate form of feedback. Who should discuss the results with the team member? Probably an independent coach from the HR department, or the transformational leader who is able to keep the focus of the conversation on mastery and sustainability.

Organizational resources

In terms of organizational resources, feedback may be as simple as statements of actual costs versus budget, or some other way of determining whether the expended organizational resources match with the delivered product or service. The team or project leader is probably the person to give this kind of feedback.

Needless to say, none of these forms of feedback are one-offs. Rather, they are a continuous stream of information to aid the team member in being excellent, developing themselves, and remaining sustainably employable. The trick is to find the balance between too little and too much, and that it isn’t a chore or something needing to be ticked off the to-do-list.

Note: This post originally ran on the Lead Change Group site on the 9th of December, 2019.

Communication Leadership skills People skills

Feedback Loops for Excellent Interpersonal Communication

Good performance is good for the organization; it promises quality results in the future. It’s about more than only the outcome: how the result was attained in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and collaboration is equally important. Performance feedback entails it all: information on how and how well a task has been executed. In this post I deal with how to let coworkers know their effort is meaningful, good, or excellent.

Communication Leadership skills People skills

Never, ever sandwich your feedback!

When you order a sandwich, is it about the two slices of bread or what’s on the sandwich? The sandwich technique for feedback is a way to package something unpleasant: First start with something positive, then the criticism and round off with something positive. The negative stuff is sandwiched between the good stuff. Sounds good, so why do I say: Never, ever use this technique.

Communication Leadership skills People skills

Achieving Excellent Interpersonal Communication

Without communication, no organization. An organization’s achievements are directly and indirectly influenced by interpersonal communication. This is true in all three directions: top-down, horizontally, and bottom-up. If you want an excellent organization, you will need excellent communication and, by extension, excellent interpersonal communication. But why? And what do you need to do to implement it?

Communication Leadership skills People skills

Once You Understand Emotion, Motivation Is Easy

One of the most powerful theories on how to motivate people on the work-floor is Deci and Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory. In my post ‘Effective Communication Is About Understanding Emotion’ I dealt with the idea of Observational Listening and how that way of listening focuses on emotions people are currently experiencing. These two concepts together make a powerful combination in which motivation takes current emotions into account.

Communication Leadership skills People skills

Why Leaders Give Feedback

An important task you have as a leader is giving feedback. Not only in terms of task performance (so that the other knows how he or she is doing), but also in terms of social behavior. This article is about just that: giving feedback on someone’s behavior with the intention that the other actually does something with that feedback. In other words, you give feedback because you would like to see different behavior. In a previous post, we looked at the difference between compliments, criticism and feedback. We now deal with the rules you should follow in order to increase the chance that your feedback will lead to desired results.

Communication Leadership skills People skills

Compliments, Criticism And Relationship

An important task you have as a leader is to give compliments and know how to deal with criticism. Compliments motivate; criticism has a negative effect on relationships. And good relationships already facilitate an environment in which the other is more willing to do things differently. In this article we therefore focus on what the effects of compliments and criticism are. In a future article, we will concentrate on a related skill: Giving feedback.

Communication People skills

Letting Others Know Your Boundaries

Boundaries are about you. Letting others know your boundaries should be done as soon as possible, preferably straightaway after the unacceptable behaviour. In other words, you usually do not have time to prepare yourself; something happens and you need to react without delay.