What is a positive feedback loop

I recently experienced a challenge in designing my own business strategy that caused me to muddle my message, lack clarity in my purpose, and frustrate several partnering contractors. I would sit and ponder this dilemma and get nowhere, and my pocket book was growing lean.

One morning, soon after, I heard a statement Mel Robbins offered in a recent talk – she offers that ‘we cannot self-improve alone’.  Bingo!  I realized at that moment that I had stopped reaching out for feedback on what was going right, what did not need to change, and what should I really be focused on to get over this hurdle. My energy and perspective made an immediate pivot and I started to reach out to not only gain feedback I needed but create feedback loops that drove my own accountability in overcoming my challenge.

This is exactly why you need feedback, not the static – one time only – kind of feedback, – the kind of feedback that helps you move forward – continuously.  When accountability is connected into how to use the feedback, this drives a feedback loop with positive momentum.

Why create a feedback loop? – Brain Science

Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, Authors of ‘thanks for the feedback’ remind us that, scientifically, our brains function in one of two places all the time:

  1. to be accepted and respected for who we are now (which is why we spend 90% of our time listening to things that validate what we already know) or
  2. where to grow next (which is why we seek out the new and novel).

Right in the middle of those 2 functions is where feedback works.

Feedback, designed to acknowledge what you already do well AND provide information you can use to grow gives your brain great food for thought.  Neuroscience, positive psychology, and positive change management all agree that reminding people what they don’t need to change frees up brain space to handle additional information to incorporate.

Growth is also not a static one-time only event; it is continuous.  Thus, feedback should be set up in a continuous loop to provide useful information, evaluate it in action, review the results, adapt and practice using the information, and then continue to incorporate additional information as needed. Growth in action.

2 Challenges to building a feedback loop that elevates performance:

1. We hate it

Sadly, we have grown accustomed to disliking feedback more than kids hate veggies.  We are so accustomed to the society norms of compare, contrast, and surpass, that the feedback we get is often perceived as backwards and punitive.  Our work environments offer feedback in the form of a performance review.  This type of feedback is designed to rate performance against a measurement to identify superior performance and evaluate where performance could improve.  Harvard Business Review offers that the range of emotions associated with performance feedback are so uncomfortable that both managers and employees often go to great length, risking promotions, progress, or growth opportunities simply due to their deep desire to avoid the negative emotions associated with giving or receiving any type of criticism.  The challenge is to make gaining feedback and information useful and positive, even when you’re overcoming a negative.

2. We don’t know how.

Understanding how to ask and hear information in a way you can positively use the information provided AND create a way to continuously revisit the progress of this feedback, allows you to control it and develop positive emotions linked to successful growth.  That sounds amazing! So why aren’t we shouting this from the roof tops and everyone scrambling to do it?  Few people are teaching you how.

Heen and Stone found that most of our resources have been spent on training people how to provide feedback without realizing the true target should have been to help everyone learn how to ask and receive the feedback they needed, when they needed it.  More recent work is moving in this direction.

Tips to building a feedback loop that works.

Here are the core elements to creating a feedback loop that works.

1. First, identify the context: (you must limit the feedback to a context to help both parties have clarity)

  1. I would like to gain a promotion.
  2. I would like to run more efficient meetings.
  3. I would like to know how to advance my career.

2. Then ask for 1 thing: (Our brains work best when able to concentrate on only 1 thing at a time)

  1. What is the first thing I should consider?
  2. What is the one thing I should identify to improve upon?
  3. What is the one thing I am doing right and don’t need to change?

3. Ask for an example: (This allows the recipient to understand the other’s perspective clearly)

  1. Can you share how you see that?
  2. Can you share how you identify that?
  3. Can you give me an example?

4. Ask for support: (This provides accountability for the information offered)

  1. How will you identify if I am applying this information correctly?
  2. How will this show up for you when I do this?
  3. How do you recognize improvements?

5. Identify training opportunities: (Allows both to explore employee benefits linked to growth)

  1. Does this office have resources I can utilize?
  2. Is there training provided for this?
  3. Do you know of someone who could mentor me?

6. Pick a date/time to reconnect: (This drives engagement, accountability and support)

  1. Can I circle back to you on this topic in 1 month?
  2. Would you support meeting regularly with me on this?
  3. Do you mind if I let you know how I’m progressing?

Keep in mind this takes some effort to get started and may feel like fresh territory.  Do it anyway.  We all want information about what we are doing well, where we need to grow, how to get support, and who we can connect with to succeed.  Don’t just read this and put it aside.  Pick one topic you would like to know about from someone else’s perspective and go through these steps.  Neuro Science identifies that high performing teams use 5 positive statements to every 1 negative statement when speaking to one another about work. So, to start off with a positive, pick a topic and ask about what you’re doing right, and don’t need to change, to start the conversation.

Why? Because, like Mel Robbins reminds us all, “you cannot self-improve alone.”

To learn more about how to utilize this information, gain personal coaching for your own work-life success, or help your organization implement methods to support positive feedback loops to increase performance, reach out to Carole Stizza with Relevant Insight Coaching.


Download our eBook: One Bite Feedback eBook

If you could grab the feedback you needed, when you needed it, to be better, get better, and grow in your career… Would you ask for it? Would you be open to receiving it?

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