Use Feedback to Fuel Practice Growth

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

Making continual feedback a priority can do a lot of good for your practice. Team members receive the direction they crave, leading them to become confident in their abilities and enabling them to contribute more to practice success. Efficiencies improve as employees are more motivated to meet individual and team goals, and that translates into increased practice productivity and a healthier bottom line.

Sounds good, right? The challenge is, before you can reap the benefits offering continual feedback provides, team members have to take the suggestions they receive seriously. Your commitment to providing feedback every day won’t do much good if team members just shrug your comments off or, even worse, take offense to them.

For feedback to be effective, you need to make sure team members actually use your suggestions to improve their performance and to develop as professionals. That’s how feedback can truly fuel practice growth. Here are my tips to make that happen in your practice:

Make sure employees understand constructive feedback isn’t criticism
For some people, constructive feedback can be difficult to accept. It makes them uneasy to hear they’ve done something wrong, and it might even hurt their feelings when you offer suggestions for improvement.

Feedback can still be effective for employees who are sensitive to constructive comments—you just need to know how to approach it. For starters, I suggest you sit down with team members to talk about how they respond when someone makes a suggestion for improvement. Then, ask them to think about the answers to these questions:

-Do I get angry when someone recommends that I do something differently?
-Do I see the comments as a personal attack?
-Do my feelings get hurt?
-Am I defensive?
-Do I dismiss feedback if it comes from someone I don’t like?

This is the time to remind team members that constructive feedback isn’t personal, and the person offering them suggestions, whether it’s you or a colleague, is only trying to help them succeed. The guidance they receive in the form of constructive feedback should be seen as a gift and an opportunity to make positive change.

Team members should try to really understand any feedback they receive
While employees might be tempted to say thanks and then move on with their day after receiving what they consider unsolicited advice, they should try to get more information instead. After saying thank you, team members should ask questions to better understand where the person offering the feedback is coming from. This could lead to a great discussion of other ways the employee can improve, resulting in even more professional growth and benefits for the practice.

Bottom line: Team members should never ignore any feedback they receive, no matter who it’s coming from. They should always take it seriously and use it to improve their performance. They’ll be glad they did—and so will you.

Encourage team members to actually seek out feedback
The more constructive feedback team members get, the more comfortable they are receiving it, which is why I suggest having them ask each other for feedback. The constructive comments will help them identify bad habits they didn’t even know they had—giving them the opportunity to start making improvements.

Train team members to document all feedback
Every time team members receive constructive-feedback, they should write it down and then come up with three to five steps they can take to start making changes. In doing so, they’ll really have to think about the suggestions they received and how they can take action.

Of course, they should write down any positive feedback they receive as well, and then share those comments with the group during team meetings. That way, they’re not always focusing on what they’re doing wrong, or what they need to improve. Remember, everyone loves to be recognized for a job well done. Receiving praise will motivate employees to continue the behavior that’s getting positive results, which is good news for the practice.

Encourage team members to give feedback as well
Some of your employees might actually find it difficult to give feedback. Why? Usually it’s because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. They keep their observations and suggestions to themselves, and while feelings might be spared, the practice suffers.

To help employees become more comfortable giving feedback, encourage them to do so on a regular basis—whether the feedback is for a fellow team member or for you. Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing concerns and offering solutions to any problems they see. Both your team members and the practice will benefit.

Embracing feedback can help your practice thrive
It’s easy for team members to become defensive when receiving constructive feedback, but if you create a culture where feedback is encouraged and expected, that won’t happen. Employees will be thankful for the feedback and will use it to improve their performance—boosting practice efficiencies and your bottom line. And don’t forget to praise team members when they go above and beyond. This positive reinforcement will make them more likely to repeat the behavior, fueling practice growth.

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