Aparna Ponnappa, Founder, REDD Network

Aparna Ponnappa
Aparna Ponnappa, Founder, REDD Network

Aparna is an XLRI Alumnus, who has the drive to inspire people, to expand their capabilities which led her to conducting workshops, coaching and interacting with people. She has over 20 years of experience in Operations, Retail, HR, Coaching and Facilitating Workshops. 

Aparna started her career as an HR heading the training function for the South Based Operations of Grindwell Norton – Saint Gobain. Post that she joined the Retail team of Titan Industries Limited where she headed the training and customer experience function for Watches- retail business.While in retail, she assessed various assignments in Mahindra Retail, Hamleys and many others. During her last employment with Reliance Retail, when the formats for Reliance Retail were still on the drawing boards, she worked on the launch of the first Reliance Jewels store and finally went on to lead marketing for Reliance TimeOut and led the function for 20 stores.

In 2010 she started her own consulting firm, REDD Network which provides consulting, training, design and workshops in the field of Leadership and Performance Management for corporate. The mission of REDD Network is to be the premier provider of sales and service-focused consulting & COMPETENCY BUILDING SERVICES. Commencing her work in conducting workshops in the January of 2011 she has touched over 1,00,000 participants through large and small interventions. Some of the Organizations that she has worked with (through REDD) are Novo Nordisk, IBM, Harman, Titan, Timex, Wildcraft, Vision Express, Reliance Jewels, and Khazana Jewellers, to name a few. 

Aparna is also a Trustee with Diya Ghar that brings pre-primary education to the children of some of the poorest migrant families in Bangalore. She is proficient in the delivery of workshops on Leadership, Performance Management, Women Leadership, First-Time Manager Programs, Campus-to-Corporate, Selling & Influencing Skills, and Customer Service.

In this Interview, Aparna shares her views on the impact of feedback in an organization:

What is your view on documenting/recording the feedback process as a part of an organization?

Absolutely essential. Feedback is a core leadership process and leaders in organisations need to understand the process and use it on a regular basis.  Leaders must be encouraged to document positive feedback as well as developmental feedback as then they can use feedback as a powerful tool to grow people’s potential and focus them on delivering greater results.

What are the key identification points for good or effective feedback and bad or ineffective feedback?

Structure and timing is everything.

a. Feedback needs to be used as much as a positive reinforcement as a redirective tool…and must clearly call out the what and how of actions and behaviours.

b.  Feedback should be given as close to the incident of observed action…  this being said – Positive feedback should be broadcast, publically shared and documented so it can inspire the individual and those around them, while corrective feedback must be given one-on-one and documented only if there is a pattern in the lack of correction in actions.

What are some ways to ensure that post feedback, negative feelings like vulnerability or frustration do not set in among the givers and receivers of feedback, in an organization?

It is all in the way the leader builds credibility.  Leaders need to demonstrate unconditional positive regard for their team members. They need to frequently give positive reinforcements and feedback. And they need to follow the structure and timely inputs for the feedback that may create negative feelings – by keeping it objective – talking about the situation and background – actions or inactions – negative results and follow this with alternatives or a discussion on solutioning so the team can work on a better outcome. Leaders can use empathy to ensure that the feedback lands well.  Feedback should be empowering – sometimes leaders let their own emotions come in the way and end up disempowering the team member – one should be mindful of this.  Preparing to give the feedback would be helpful – notes, structure and intent can be addressed if leaders ground themselves and think about the outcome they want.

What are some ways that you think we can ensure that past bias does not impact the quality of feedback?

Structuring feedback, and thinking of the outcome will be helpful.  If there is a pattern of behaviour that the leader wants to address we would encourage them to try a coaching model instead, especially when feedback has not yielded adequate results.

How should negative/critical feedback be approached in an organization? Any best practices that you would like to share.

Everyone across organisations should have a holistic understanding of feedback as a tool.  The STAR-AR model pioneered by DDI is the best tool and all managers should be trained on it periodically.  Another model called SBI or SBIA is also effective.  Leaders should be trained on this and encouraged to use it – through Feedback Culture Workshops, FirstLine Leadership Workshops, Performance Management Workshops and Coaching Workshops.  Also, many companies I work with have a structured form and forum and also created automated feedback tools which can be used to send and document feedback – especially the positive.

What are the key questions that an organization must ask its employees to get honest feedback about itself?

The questions should be around what the organization should be doing and how better they can perform…  A leader should ask a question like “What better could be have done in the last project?”  instead of a question like “What feedback can you give me?”  The previous question is about a task or a situation and makes it easy to respond to – the second question puts the team member on the spot and creates discomfort.  Also if the org is not getting adequate feedback they need to create structured and facilitated workshops for this which ensures participation and the contribution of ideas.  The biggest motivation to give feedback is if people see that there is an actual difference being made – hence communication on actions taken based on feedback received is also super important.