ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

November 1998


Xerox Documents Success

Soup's On

The Power Of Senior Teams

The Talk Around The Office


Total Quantity Management
by Peter Block

New Tools For Business Success
by Gregory P. Smith


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


The Talk Around The Office
Forming Relationships and Emotional Connections to Foster Feedback

Two of the most dreaded words in corporate America—performance review: the yearly treat of having your managers and peers dissect your job performance.

The formal review should be an ideal means for coworkers to point out your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. But, what is the great benefit of input that takes place only once a year?

Our search for excellence, whether it relates to ourselves, our business or our relationships requires feedback. Feedback is simply sharing perceptions of what was seen, heard and/or felt from the people who work with you. Doesn’t sound difficult, does it? So why do people struggle with giving and requesting feedback?

Getting Back To Basics
Michael Krysiak, a quality assurance manager at FEECO International, Inc. in Green Bay, Wis., has been working with management level employees on incorporating the fundamental concept of feedback into their work environment. FEECO International is a technology products company that engineers, designs, manufactures and installs equipment throughout the world. Krysiak has developed a 10 principle approach to promoting constructive feedback, “The Art of Giving and Requesting Constructive Feedback.”

The first thing to consider is that in order for a review to be effective, it must occur more than once or twice a year. Krysiak believes, “Reviews must occur every single day, every single hour.” The only way for people to improve their job skills is for the people they work for to provide candid, timely performance evaluations.

“There is nothing formal or complex about it,” Krysiak declares. “It’s about getting back to basics. The principles all draw parallelisms to events that occur in our daily lives.” (See sidebar)

The Art Of Making Art
Krysiak believes that the ability to give and request guiding feedback is an art that must be integrated into our daily lives. “This method is very self-centered,” Krysiak says. “We must make the conscious effort to control destiny by actively determining its path. It requires the ability to emotionally connect with others.”

And therein lies the challenge—how does a person learn the art of giving and requesting feedback?

The learning process consists of first, self responsibility and then learning to both give and request constructive feedback. When all is said and done, properly delivered feedback is necessary to improve and increase performance effectiveness, customer satisfaction and profitability.

The first, and most basic step in the model is accepting self responsibility. We all have an innate desire to maximize our full potential. Whether we are referring to our personal lives or business, we must be driven to improve every aspect in order to increase tomorrow's profits. Krysiak states, “You must have a desire to improve. The first step to transformation is revelation.”
Once this revelation has taken place, the individual has to learn how to give and request feedback. Like any art form must be practiced and honed for improvement, so too is the act of giving and requesting feedback. These basic skills are acquired through workshop sessions and group interaction with your coworkers.

One of the key principles that Krysiak incorporates in his method is the importance of good communication skills. In order to maintain open lines of communication one must:
- Be honest and open
-Emit the right attitude
- Be objective and fair
-Be open-minded
-Be conscious of non-verbal communication: eye contact, smile, open body language, acknowledgment
-Eliminate physical and psychological distractions

Good interpersonal communication skills are crucial in creating constructive feedback dialogue. Without developing good communication skills participants in a feedback dialogue will accomplish minimal, if any, results.

Sticks and Stones
Why is it that after reading about this basic concept of feedback many people still have difficulty grasping and applying the principles? One of the pre-existing challenges with standard reviews and feedback of any kind is that human nature hasn't changed—not many people enjoy hearing their shortcomings and few of our bosses and colleagues look forward to describing them.

Krysiak feels this is no different than the growing pains and emotions we all experienced as a kid. Ideally, if approached properly, feedback results in a wonderful growing experience. In reality, some exchanges are more difficult than others. Maybe your co-worker is feeling under the weather and isn’t receptive to your feedback. Or perhaps the person giving you feedback is in a bad mood and their words are harsh and scathing. There are always going to be those people who are particularly sensitive and cannot handle criticism of any kind.
If the principles are properly understood and applied, you can maximize your chances for delivering successful feedback. “In the event that a person reacts very negatively to the guiding feedback, you can always exercise your ability to request feedback on how to handle things different next time,” states Krysiak.

Whereas harsh criticism can hurt the relationship between two people, too little feedback can have a negative effect as well. For example, a co-worker does a presentation for the company. Afterward they request feedback and their coworker tells them, “It was good.” While these generic expressions, or white lies, are quick and easy alternatives to true feedback, they are not guiding responses and have little or no benefit.

Making the Connection
A basic concept in Krysiak’s model is that the participants must be willing to emotionally connect with others. The “Marriage Principle” explains the importance of focusing on a long-term commitment. Without commitment, the desire to improve and make a personal connection is not present. By forming a bond the connection made will help to develop trust. By letting others know that you are open to feedback, they will share their perspective with less hesitancy and the connection will be made.

Strained relationships in the office are always challenging. If reasons exist that absolutely prevent an emotional connection from occurring Krysiak offers two choices: 1. Either appeal to reason with the other person or 2. Wait for another day.

When a new relationship is being formed apply the “Do Unto Principle”—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Let the person know that you expect the same feedback in return. By applying this principle before offering your guiding thoughts, people will recognize that cooperative feedback is a two-way street.

Once You Learn to Ride a Bicycle, You Never Forget
“Giving feedback is a tiresome yet rewarding process,” Krsyiak believes. “I liken it to teaching your child how to ride a bike. You begin by communicating the basics with them as they sit there on the bike (your legs hurt from squatting). Then you walk next to them, coaching them on what they are doing (your legs hurt from squat-walking). Then you jog next to them, guiding them down the road, avoiding the curbs (your legs burn from squat-running). Eventually, you let go and away they ride, on their own, proud of their accomplishment and thankful for your help. You may be tired, your legs may be weak, but you see and understand why the effort was worth it.”

November '98 News for a Change | Email Editor

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