The neuro-science of business feedback

Business feedback: What we pay attention to gets repeated.

Changing our own behaviour can be hard. Changing someone else’s behaviour is harder. We need to learn to overcome resistance to change, get our message heard. Business feedback is not alway easy to give, and it can be hard to hear.

Changing an entire organisations’ behaviour is the most difficult of all. Whether the organisation is just a few people, a sports team, a government department, or a large organisation; change can be difficult. As leaders we need to pay attention to the impact we have.

Business feedback: What we pay attention to gets repeated.

Are we encouraging good behaviour or focussing on what is wrong? Change begins with your ability to be heard and sell your message (buy-in). If you focus on what is wrong you’ll often miss what is right, what is working.

Keep the feedback positive

Researchers (Eisenberger, Rock and Eckman) have shown that the brain treats social pain in a similar manner to physical pain. When we give positive business feedback it activates the reward centres in the same way financial windfalls do. When people feel criticised we become defensive and don’t hear the message.

There are 5 key areas of social reward (and threat) directly impact the brain: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. People can experience negative feedback as an attack on their “status,” which the brain reacts to in a similar way to a physical attack. This encourages dissent and resistance to change. Feedback of what can be improved is necessary to grow, but too much “correction” leads the listener to feel attacked, and become defensive. Keep your feedback 3 times positive.5 key areas of social reward (and threat) Infographic

Be aware of your non-verbal signals

We are far more swayed by emotion than the rational. We give far more weight to the non-verbal signals we perceive than to the words we hear. The emotional impact of a leader’s physical signals can boost a leader’s credibility or or inhibit the willingness of the listener to buy-in to their message.

“Nobody cares what you know, until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt

Caring is demonstrated most efficiently through non-verbal signals (body language and tone) and feedback which encourages positive change.


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Richard Riche

Change Communication and Employee Engagement specialist at One Clear Message Consulting
Richard specialises in helping you build real human communication skills. Employee Engagement / Experience, Emotional Intelligence skills, building high performance teams and a great place you want to work. TED style speaking and presentation skills. Training, consulting and coaching.
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