The first three steps needed to achieve a worthy goal (and discussed in previous blogs) are set a SMART goal, gain commitment, and build belief with a plan. The fourth step is to use feedback to stay on track.
Webster’s Dictionary defines feedback as “the return to the point of origin of evaluative or corrective information.” Feedback surrounds us. A market-based economy works because consumers give continuous feedback to producers. (To buy or not to buy is the feedback question of capitalism.) Feedback is also a critical factor in the theory of evolution. Survival of the fittest is really the ability of a species to adapt to its changing environment (i.e., responding to the feedback from its surroundings). That's how they survive. Without feedback, we too would die. The human body incorporates thousands of feedback mechanisms that keep us alive. And using feedback to stay on track is also how extraordinary leaders thrive as they pursue their goals.
Feedback comes in many flavors. Obstacles, setbacks, and difficulties are forms of feedback. (If it was easy to achieve worthy goals, everyone would do it and the goal by definition, would be less valuable.) In addition, corrective information (from customers, bosses, peers…) is feedback used to monitor progress.
Think about the last time you received praise for a job well done. How did it affect the job you just completed? It didn’t, did it? Of course not. However, it may have influenced your next task. That’s because feedback is really feed forward. It affects future performance.
Of the 18 studies Professors Locke and Latham reviewed in their book, 17 reported that when feedback was combined with goal setting, it improved performance more than goal setting alone. (1)
Professors John Ivancevich and Timothy McMahon, from the University of Houston, studied 209 engineers over a nine-month period and found that goal setting plus feedback significantly improve performance measures related to costs, quality, and overall productivity. (2)
When Alan Dubinsky (College of Management at the Metropolitan State University) studied 174 medical salespeople, he and his co-researchers found that salespeople who were supervised by actively involved managers (i.e., they gave more feedback), performed better than those under a “hands-off” or “call-me-if-there’s-trouble” manager. (3) Not only was the performance better under the “hands-on” managers, the salespeople in this group also had greater job satisfaction, supervisor satisfaction, and higher levels of commitment.
These researchers are not saying that leaders need to be in the employee’s face all the time. In fact, there’s evidence that says the amount of feedback managers dispense should be adjusted to the individual needs of each person. (4) Star performers need less input than the struggling employees do, for example. The research is telling us is to use regular feedback, adjusted for the individual, to stay on track.
How surprised will you be when you and your team achieve your goal because you used feedback to stay on track? Let me know how you currently use feedback.
1. Locke E and Latham G: A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance. Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, 192, 1990.
2. John Ivancevich and Timothy McMahon; is The Effects of Goal setting, External Feedback, and Self Generated Feedback on Outcome Variables: A Field Experiment, Academy of Management Journal, June, 1982, page 359 - 372.
3. Dubinsky A, Yammarino F, Jolson M, et al: Closeness of Supervision and Salesperson Work Outcomes: An Alternative Perspective. Journal of Business Research 29: 225-237, 1994.
4. DelVecchio S: Predicting Sales Manager Control: A Comparison of Control Systems and Leadership Approaches. Journal of Applied Business Research 12 (4): 100-114, 1996.