A Strengths-based approach is motivating
I was chatting with a coach friend about feedback in general. We were debating whether it’s better to take a Strengths based approach to feedback (him), or to work with critical feedback too (me).
I totally agree that we should encourage and celebrate positive feedback. It’s great for someone to know that they are performing well. It’s also true that people enjoy working with skills they are already good at.
Critical feedback is important
But it’s important to gather critical feedback via the 360 degree feedback process, to make sure that the individual, and their manager, can identify any serious weaknesses. There may be areas that could be derailing that person’s career or negatively affecting those around them. This is particularly important for senior people; at that level, teams and colleagues will be reluctant to give constructive feedback, for fear of the consequences. Because 360 Degree Feedback is given anonymously, it means that the individual can get more honest feedback about their weaker areas.
Identify strengths that might be over-used
People can also overuse their strengths to the extent that they lose the effectiveness of those skills, and those strengths then become weaknesses. It reminded me of a great article from HBR called ‘Fear Your Strengths: Strength that can become weakness’ (Kaplan & Kaiser, 2013) They argue that it’s irresponsible to assess executives for strengths without warning them of the dangers that strength can hold if it’s overused. Fear Your Strengths
A balance of strengths and development feedback is best
So strengths based and critical feedback are equally important. So it’s a balance. Positive feedback alone can make someone complacent. It’s also unfair not to give them the full picture if there are skills that they need to improve. Purely critical feedback can be a motivator for some people, but can also be a bit discouraging for others. Your 360 Degree Feedback tool and report should provide a clear picture of areas of strength, and of areas for development.