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Unintended Benefits of an Everyday Feedback Culture

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

I always thought that “unintended consequences” meant negative side effects from an action. But Wikipedia explained that these can also be unexpected benefits….also referred to as luck, serendipity, or a windfall.  Now that the intentional use of everyday feedback is happening at several companies I work with, we’re seeing some happy surprises that we really couldn’t have predicted. But I suspect that it’s not just luck. Here are a few:

1. Poor performers leave of their own accord

This is kind of weird but I think it’s good. Soon after top leaders announce an everyday feedback approach and team leaders start holding real feedback conversations, several of the long-term “benchwarmers”–people who come in and do their minimal requirements, but are unproductive–leave to go elsewhere. This is unexpected, but encouraging to the hardworking improvement-seekers who care about results for the company and are ambitious about developing their own careers. The poor performers seem to flee the new culture and seek refuge elsewhere. It’s kind of sad for them—that they don’t stay and get developed—but maybe that will happen for them later in their careers….

2. Useful biz ideas pop up from individual contributors 

People who aren’t managers (and had rarely been asked how they think the business can grow) start to open up. When leaders give fast feedback and constantly request it in return, frontline workers and individual professionals take it seriously and come up with BIG ideas–like how to increase sales leads or how to make a process twice as efficient. Although leaders today do seek input and continuous improvement ideas, they aren’t prepared for really huge biz breakthroughs like these.

3. Warm friendships develop between bosses and employees

The very thing that people fear losing when they start giving feedback–a caring and positive rapport between boss and employee–is enhanced tenfold when you break down barriers, start talking honestly, live through it, and see how it builds the trust and warmth you were looking for all along. If you go the everyday feedback route, take a look at your happiness at work and notice that friendships are so much easier when you are sharing honestly about what can make a difference on your shared goals.

4. Your team members taking over some of your job, so you have more time to focus on more important things you almost never had time for 

Because people are learning way faster, they are leading & coordinating with their peers more, and leaving their boss out of some of the details—so you can think and plan for future strategic moves. Everybody’s getting smarter, taking ownership and “growing up” faster. Far from dragging bosses down with the perceived time-consuming task of giving feedback, you can harvest the overall wonderfulness of feedback as your employees take over some of the hard stuff. Everyday feedback, as it turns out, can ensure that you will have luck, serendipity, and a lot of windfalls.

5. Quick turn-on-a-dime strategies available when there’s a downturn or change in your industry

If you’ve promoted honest feedback all along the way, people are used to getting real when a threat or change in your business requires a fast and effective response. They’re not waiting in the wings to parrot the executives’ plans for a turnaround. Actually they have probably anticipated some of the problems in just before they happen or in the early stages, and are more quickly able to drop what was done in the past and do things differently. That’s one of the things an honest culture can deliver…..

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