Radhika Singh is an ICF certified Brain-Based Coach specialised in Executive Leadership Coaching, ICTA certified NLP Master Coach, Certified ACT Lead Consultant (USA) and Early Career Mentor/Parenting Expert (DMIT certified) with over 25 years years of international experience across industries, and over a decade as an Executive Coach, Performance Consultant and Leadership Development specialist. She rose up the corporate ladder through GE, IBM, and Bank of America, and has held many leadership roles specialized in emerging market countries, Asia-Pacific, and BRIC.
Her key exposure comes from extensive hands-on work in Leadership Development and Design, Learning Consulting, Coaching Building Executive Leadership pipelines, change management in an M&A environment, besides managing large teams and business operations.
As an Executive Coach and Organizational Leadership Consultant, she catalyses’ ‘building leadership acumen’ and supporting leaders and teams to actualize their potential in different environments. Her successful stints as a CXO and as a P&L leader (for GE) contributes to her coaching effectiveness. She is versatile in her coaching style while adapting different methodologies to her clients’ leadership stage, applying neuroscience to accelerate their performance.
A young achiever for most of her career, she has been the recipient of several coveted awards and has a strong presence on the global executive leadership stage. This includes speaking engagements for the prestigious Cornell University, Annual Masie Learning Conference in Florida, US: ASTD-STADA Conference in Singapore and Asia HRD Congress, India, spanning leadership design and change management topics. During her early career in media and consulting, she has been a part of prestigious assignments with NBC and CNBC, The Economic Times and won a UN award.
In this interview, Radhika shares with us, her experiences with Performance Feedback and how it impacts an organization:
What is your view on having a formal feedback process as a part of an organization? Any experiences you would like to share?
In my experience in the corporate world, formal feedback is an integral component of the performance management process. It is essential to establish a basic minimum requirement or performance criteria for a role or job type. Over the decades, different means have been used from psychometric tests and assessments to 360 feedback to the newest trend on Objectives and Key Results. I see these as the HOW of a Basic Feedback Process( which is the WHAT) that needs to be done to bring organisational alignment at a people level and measure people performance in the context of larger Goals set to meet a company’s strategy.
The company that did this meticulously and in as unbiased a way as possible, while enabling employees to give their best and feel comfortable while levelling their performance has got to be GE for me. Their focus on quantitative and qualitative feedback and an established Goal setting process and rigour to measure performance, made it a satisfying and engaging experience for the employee and manager.
Over recent years, there has been criticism over too much pressure and dehumanising employee performance by measuring everything. To my mind, the magic lies in the quality of the discussion that happens between a Manager and Employee with the data collated. You could measure anything or everything or nothing, but how a Manager contextualises the feedback on performance and uses it to motivate and reward the Employee or Team member, determines all future performance.
My fondest experience of Performance feedback is where, as a young Project Manager with a large team, I was able to retain and motivate the two cases rated at the bottom of the grid after a forced ranking to become best in class and eventually lead their teams and excel professionally. A satisfying and huge learning opportunity that every Manager should experience at least once in their career.
What do you think are the key features that should be there in a feedback process to make it more effective for an organization?
I would love to wax eloquently on this for reams of papers, but the answer is quite simple and straightforward. Here are my top tips for an effective feedback process for any organisation to consider:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate – the company values, strategy and organisational goals and most importantly the Performance feedback process.
- Adhering to Point 1 means you have well-articulated values, goals and the feedback process outlined explicitly – not implied.
- Follow the KISS principle – Keep it Simple Stupid. Share keywords with managers and employees and allow for a framework within which the feedback occurs. No exceptions to the framework set and Operational definitions for clarity.
- Timelines set upfront and shared with all the Organisation – for goals, measures, check-ins during the year to allow for course correction and an annual formal feedback cycle that feels easy and worth the time.
- Transparency and Openness and Trust at all different levels vs an exercise in target practice or shooting the messengers or saving the boss’s skin.
What are the different tools that can be used for the feedback process? And what, in your opinion, a tool must have to make the feedback experience more efficient and wholesome?
There are a number of tools from Raters bars to MBO(Measuring Business Objectives), OKR, 360 feedback. While in Bank of America, we moved 3 Performance Management tools – software changes, but the process was robust and communication and effective change management ( that I led ) in the region ensured we transitioned over 20,000 employees each cycle to still have meaningful feedback and ratings assigned. It was no mean feat and not recommended, but when change hits you in the face of business acquisitions or through other company transformations, you got to do what you got to do….and we emerged fine through it all. So a strong company culture is super important to any kind of Feedback process being successful and well-received.
A tool needs to have built-in communications for all raters and mandatory feedback in word boxes to avoid Managers, Peers or Upline managers just doing the basics. It should have support keywords and goals fed in. It should be accessible through the year when the different performance cycles unfold and lock in based on organisational deadlines. that way, everyone is committed to it equally. It is not just the employee or just the Manager slogging over. It allows for easy participation and complete commitment.
Ah, and it should allow for easy access to company HR policies or whatever are the follow-up actions or increments or Promotion policies and Next steps. As well as for the Individual Development Plans to be active documents with signoffs and restricted access to all the persons’ managers and uplines.
How should negative feedback be approached in an organization? Any best practices that you would like to share.
I am not a votary of the term “negative feedback’. To my mind there is no Negative Feedback, it is merely Performance Improvement feedback. I like thinking of it as ‘Feed Forward”, because you can’t undo it, you can ensure it is not repeated in the future, as it was detrimental in some way and not aligned to goals. In the organisations I’ve worked, it was always “areas of improvement’, not Strengths and Weaknesses, so that is something I share at every organisation I Consult or Coach. Words can enable good positive behaviours, and the use of terms like “negative feedback or weaknesses” can impair people’s performance severely, as it makes them feel they are wrong. Whereas in actuality, it is the behaviour or action they exercised that needs correction. If there is consistently denial or an employee who is not an organisational fit due to a misaligned personal beliefs and organisational values, it is appropriate to communicate the same to the employee and allow them to move on.
Do you think feedback should be linked to the employee performance evaluation process? Why?
Yes absolutely, because in the absence of feedback, how does an employee learn about their performance. Metrics alone cannot provide the perspective. It will turn everyone into mean machines and account for a good deal of left-brained people being successful. Feedback takes into account a lot of more right-brained activity that could drive performance like innovation, creative problem solving and interpersonal and intrapersonal awareness. Notice the use of the word awareness versus skills. Increasingly, as neuroscience research progresses, it is becoming apparent that we can manage and control our behaviours and be more productive and efficient, if we have a high degree of self-awareness. This comes of course, from a great deal of self-reflection, but also from how we come across or are seen by others( who view us from their model of the world).
I do believe the presence of an experienced HR Professional, a Coach and/or Mentor, besides Manager feedback alone, can greatly enhance the Feedback process of an Employee and be of value in their growth and excellence. At IBM, we had a mid-year review which was extremely helpful and ensured no last-minute dashes to update your inputs, but a steady dialogue early enough after Goal setting, and a reflection point for what more needs to be done, before the year ends. It’s like the Orange light at a traffic signal and alerts you to where you are and stop and think of whether you are on course or need to reset.
What are the key questions that an organization must ask its employees to get honest feedback about itself?
Ok, so now we are viewing this from the other end of the lens. This would be more around EMployee Engagement or a People Survey to know how empowered your employees feel and how aligned they are to the Company or Organisations’ Values and Strategy.
I would definitely recommend questions that allow for an understanding of Values, the kind of communication and how it flows through upward and downward, check for alignment to strategic intent and goals, a said understanding of stakeholders; as well as hygiene factors like information around flagship programs and policies; and last but most importantly how they personify the company and project it in their outside world.