Yes! There's a science to feedback

May 4, 2020

Are you a manager cringing at the very thought of giving feedback? Does disturbing the apple cart stop you from sharing feedback? According to Dr. David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, the current state of feedback is broken and nothing short of a revolution- not an evolution-is needed to fix it.

The power of feedback has done the rounds for decades; tones of development dollars being invested in upping managerial capability, with ‘how to give feedback’ being core to managing teams.  Yet managers often struggle with this very skill which doesn’t always come naturally.

The good part is, not all is lost.  Think about turning turtle, to understand the core of what controls how we receive feedback – be it positive, negative or constructive.  What this truly means is an understanding of our very own supercomputer – the brain, one which has millions of neurons which controls the way we think, react and process patterns.

Let’s dig a little deeper to uncover three distinguishable parts of the brain

The Reptilian brain is the oldest part, which probably evolved over 300 million years ago. One that controls basic survival instincts.

The Limbic System deals with feelings (the end of which rests the almond shaped Amygdala which controls positive and negative emotions). More nuanced than the reptilian brain which responds as a flight or fight.

The Cortex is the most advanced part of the brain, responsible for higher order processes like decision making and thought process.  The evolution of the cortex sets humans apart from other mammals.

Fundamentally, our brains are designed to keep us safe from threat or anything which is seemingly so.  

Let’s do a little role play

Think of a situation if someone came up to say ‘Hey, let me give you some feedback about the Annual Plan’.  The immediate signal to the brain would be one of Threat or stress, sending signals to the reptilian brain, thereby causing reduced thinking or problem-solving abilities, thereby shutting down the pre-frontal cortex.

What you would have is a situation of low innovation or thinking or problem solving. As you can see, not a happy spot to be.

The same statement framed differently ‘Hey I really liked what you did with the crafting of the annual plan. What do you think we do to get to the next level?’ triggers a positive emotion thereby activating higher order thinking.  

So, the next time you’re in a feedback conversation, think about the choice of words, framing of the sentence to get the best of your team.  

At Fitbots, we believe transitioning to a culture of continuous feedback and engagement check ins is key to being Career Fit.  Write in to us for a demo on how to use tech and touch to transition to the culture you have always wanted!


About the Author: Vidya Santhanam is our passionate co founder and executive coach.

#feedback #performance #manager

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