How your work is different to Usain Bolt

Think back to the last time you got feedback on something you’ve done at work. Or the last time that you gave a co-worker feedback on something he or she has done. For most of us this is really hard because the harsh reality is that we seldom get feedback on what we do.

Most of us have these big feedback moments in our work. It could be a product launch, an annual report on how our products are doing or it could be a corporate evaluation. The thing that these events have in common is that they rarely occur, and that’s also the problem with them. Imagine if Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter and five-time World and three-time Olympic gold medalist, only got feedback once or twice a year.

Behavior psychology has taught us a few things about feedback and what it takes to change a behavior. The first thing you should know is that a behavior (e.g showing up at the office late, making a cold call) is more affected by what happens after the behavior is performed than what comes before it. You can tell your employees that you demand that they show up on time but as long as the consequences of them showing up late don’t affect them negatively they will probably keep showing up late. As a matter a fact the consequences of showing up late are often positive for the person being late since he or she get to sleep longer. In other words behaviors are shaped more by their consequences than by guidelines, orders or policies. Three important things can be said about how this feedback should be delivered to be effective:

1. Feedback should be positive. More appraisal than criticism.
2. Feedback should be delivered immediately. If you want to encourage a certain behavior, give feedback whenever it’s performed. Don’t wait till the end of the week.
3. The person receiving the feedback must know why he or she is receiving it. Don’t say “nicely done Niklas” because then I don’t know what I did that was so “nice”. Instead you should be more specific with your feedback, for example by saying “nicely done making all those cold calls Niklas, this is really an important process and I’m glad you’re doing it so well”.

Our tool Viary is used in corporate settings right now and this “feedback issue” is one of the problems we’re trying to solve. By registering behaviors that you and your company want to see more of with your phone you’re also creating a feedback loop that’s closer to the actual behavior. Using Viary you will get data on all your efforts which makes it easier and more concrete for you and your co-workers to see how you are constantly moving towards your greater goals.

/Niklas

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