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Learn How Feedback Can Impact Professional Services: Improving Law Firms, Marketing Agencies, Accounting Firms, and SaaS Professionals

Jason Diamond Arnold

April 27, 2023

How we work is rapidly evolving. As a result, companies in Professional Services spaces seek to adapt to more effective workflows to sustain productivity, retain top talent, and improve Customer Satisfaction Ratings (CSR). As a result, many of these companies are reevaluating how they manage the performance of their people across the various places they work from.  

But simply pivoting to performance management software is not the solution. Instead, organizations with people working from various spaces need to develop a deeper understanding of how people perform in a hybrid, virtual, or traditional face-to-face office space. Buying technology without a relevant knowledge of best performance practices will add to their challenges—not solve them. 

According to McKinsey Global Institute, these best practices suggest that a Performance through People (P+P) process is critical to the success of Continuous Performance Management (CPM) and bottom-line business results. The P+P approach to CPM emphasizes the importance of aligning individual and team goals with company objectives, then providing employees with regular feedback and coaching that creates a continuous learning and development culture.  

By implementing CPM practices such as agile goal setting, regular check-ins, ongoing feedback, and timely recognition, SaaS companies and other professional service companies like Saas can improve employee engagement, promote accountability, and foster a high-performance culture. In addition, the ability to adjust priorities and goals quickly through effective Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition (CFRs) practices, has helped professional services companies respond promptly and effectively to changing market conditions–an essential business advantage in the fast-paced world of SaaS.  

CPM is fueled by a world-class leadership language like The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Situational Leadership II (SLII).  This leadership approach allows companies to stay nimble and adapt to changes, leading to more significant innovation, employee engagement, and higher retention. 

One of the essential elements in an agile performance process is the ability to create a continuous feedback cadence that enables professional service workers to cultivate a healthy psychological sense of their work. Regular performance check-ins initiate transparent and meaningful communication through effective feedback that creates choice, clarity, and context with respect to performance goals.  


Definition of Feedback 

Leadership expert and best-selling business book author Dr. Drea Zigarmi defined feedback as “Information about past behavior, given in the present, which may influence future behavior.”  

According to Zigarmi’s definition, giving feedback is a broad concept. For example, feedback can be provided through various mediums, such as surveys, face-to-face, or virtual conversations, etc. Also, notice that the definition implies that feedback may or may not influence future behavior—the probability of the feedback's effectiveness will be up to the receiver.  

Here are three tips to consider the next time you are cultivating a culture of continuous feedback:  


Tip 1: Give Employees a Choice to Implement the Feedback 

The first misconception about feedback is that people assume the receiver must do something with it if they give someone feedback. Feedback should be considered a gift, not an expectation for immediate change—or any change at all. No matter how specific the feedback is delivered, how sincerely it is delivered, or how relevant the input is to the receiver, it is still the choice of the receiver of the feedback as to whether they will do anything with it. 


Tip 2: Give Employees Clear Feedback 

Another misconception about feedback is that the person giving it often assumes that the receiver understands what is being given to them. Vague and ambiguous feedback could be destructive when misunderstood. When providing feedback to a professional service employee, it must be specifically related to the objective or critical results they are trying to achieve. An effective CPM software solution should enable leaders to use language and best practices in feedback about the issue being addressed. Your CPM platform should not only allow for feedback to be given but leave room for employees to clarify and have conversations about the feedback. 


Tip 3: Set the Context of Your Feedback 

Have you ever received feedback from a leader on an outcome you did not know you were responsible for achieving? People have a need for relevance, including the feedback they receive from others and their environment. The feedback that is coming from “left field” or irrelevant to what they are trying to accomplish may create friction or distrust for those delivering the input. Effective feedback should be provided in the context of trying to achieve an outcome or a goal that was agreed upon by both parties. 

Before giving feedback, be sure that the information you discuss is in the context of a goal or outcome you’ve both agreed you should pursue. This type of feedback is received more openly and builds trust and respect for the person giving the feedback. In addition, it is more likely to produce higher performance when consistently shown in the context of an agreed-upon goal. 


Feedback is Vital to Professional Service Performance  

In a knowledge-based economy, regardless of what medium you use, it is more important than ever to deliver quality feedback that helps individuals grow, learn, and thrive. Quality feedback is essential but is often a misused leadership skill in today’s workplace. By having a common leadership language and continuous performance cadence, these three tips for giving effective feedback will increase employee engagement, lead to more effective collaboration, and improve overall productivity toward your desired business objectives.