Feedback is an important element of effective learning. Feedback impacts motivation to learn, improves performance at all levels, and generally supports people to succeed in their role.
Feedback is an important source of development for mentors and mentees as well as for managers and their employees – and feedback is a two-way street, meaning that also employees and mentees can and should give feedback to their managers and mentors.
What is feedback?
Productive and constructive feedback is about learning, about accelerating learning and being able to make good decisions about how to act in specific situations to be successful in job and career. Feedback builds new insight and is an opportunity to reinforce talents and strengths. Feedback includes observation, interpretation, and advice on what to do differently, as well as recognition, praise, encouragement, and celebration that facilitates growth.
What works and what doesn’t work
Source: Our Brains Are to Blame: The Neuroscience of Feedback, 2018
According to research, feedback that focuses on what someone is doing right has a much higher impact than feedback focusing on what the person is doing wrong. – And the more specific the feedback is, the easier it will be for that person to understand and decide how to apply the feedback.
For feedback to be even more effective, we need to focus on developing the talents of each person. Talents indicate areas where a person has the most potential, and these talents can be identified through a talent test.
From the research into talent and neuroscience, we know that investing in developing your talents provides more effective learning that focusing on your weak spots or non-talents. It also means that developing your talents require less energy than the energy needed to develop your non-talents. However, if language is not a talent of yours, you still need to learn English to be able to perform when you work in an international environment. You may never become perfect at English, but you can learn enough to perform well and collaborate with your colleagues in other countries. To be highly effective in your job, you will need to build a team around you of colleagues with talents that compensate for your non-talents.
Create a strong feedback culture with mentoring
Creating an environment where individuals feel free and encouraged to share and receive feedback is essential both within a mentoring programme and within the organization. There are some steps you can take to build a strong feedback culture:
- Provide feedback training – training mentors and mentees for their roles also include training feedback skills. Mentors and mentees need to understand that feedback is a two-way street, and both should be comfortable with giving and receiving feedback.
- Provide feedback opportunities – in workshops with mentors and mentees provide time and structure for giving and receiving feedback. This can be in the form of groups of mentees writing down their collective feedback to mentors – and mentors doing the same to the mentees. Or it could be facilitating mutual feedback in the pairs during the workshop.
- Conduct individual follow-up meetings with mentors and mentees – at least once during the mentoring programme we recommend that you have individual meetings to follow up on the collaboration in the mentor/mentee-pairs and on their learning. This will provide you with direct feedback on the programme and on your role.
- Lead by example by giving feedback – as a programme manager you need to think of yourself as a role model for the mentors and mentees. Give feedback to mentors and mentees and be open to receive feedback on your role and on the mentoring programme.
- Set clear expectations – finally, make it clear to mentors and mentees what your expectations are regarding feedback and provide them with information, tools, and actionable advice.