Feedback loop error is when you send a message and, in one way or another, there is a failure in the feedback that follows. This could be: no return message, distorted or misinformed message, miscommunicated message, and the list goes on.
This problem is indicative of both why and how good and well intended companies and leaders fail at communicating well enough.
People will often distort their own feedback in the ways previously mentioned either on purpose or unknowingly because they do not feel like the leader or company actually cares, because they were asked the wrong question/s, because there was not a sufficient channel to communicate, because they have been ignored before, and for many other reasons.
When we consider the feedback loop, consider the second word ‘loop’ for a minute. One definition of a loop is, “a structure, series, or process, the end of which is connected to the beginning.” The end is connected to the beginning. If we look at good communication, good communication functions as a loop.
The initiator of the original message provides their message, as well as the appropriate context, channel, and confidence to return an adequate and honest answer back. When context, channel, and confidence are not directly expressed, this jeopardizes the integrity of the message and the loop fails.
Communication is only good when the loop is fulfilled. This means that the receiver of the message has understood your intention (context), they have the appropriate method/s of returning a reply (channel), and they have been empowered to give an honest and accurate reply that will be received and considered (confidence).
Even with all the right intentions and follow through, the best of messages can still fall on ears that have no intention of fulfilling the loop. The responsibility for this failure is then on the receiver and not on the sender of the message.
However, for especially those in a position of power, it is their duty to go above and beyond in tailoring their messages to have clear context, several channels for reply, and confidence infused into all their communications that simultaneously empowers and inspires.
The reason those in power must do this is because, with an imbalance in power, communications messages will almost always have added meaning that discourages those in less powerful positions to not reply, withhold complete honesty, and not want to take the time to reply to a message if they feel like it won’t be heard.
Above all else, it is important to be open to feedback about how well you are communicating. The reason for this is that communication is fluid and not fixed, meaning it changes at all times in every different context and place. It’s not as simple as saying what you mean.
Perhaps we feel open to a reply but we have not provided a channel, or we have channels to reply but do not empower others to reply because we are intimidating (because of our power, status). Often it is not something that we are ultimately doing poorly, but is something that we can implement for the benefit of ourselves and others.
An example of a good initial message that contains confidence, context, and channels:
Hello everyone, I wanted to make sure that you all are aware of our meeting tomorrow morning at 3 p.m. We will be discussing end of year reports (context). I know that there is a lot of stress and confusion about getting these done and doing them well. I am going to be staying late today to answer any questions and assist in any way I can. Please understand that me offering help is by no means a poor reflection of your work; I am here to help (confidence)! You can stop by my office, call me, or reply to this email if you have questions or comments (channels). We had a great year thanks to each and every one of you-keep up the good work!