The Growing Importance of Social Intelligence

In the past, professionals typically devoted their entire careers to companies that valued their functional or technical skills, not their social ones. Today’s lightning-fast business environment demands job candidates who can step into senior management roles in five to eight years, often in decentralized and constantly transforming enterprises, in relationship-based professions like investment banking and consulting, and in dynamic and diverse communities. In such organizations, leadership success is often defined in interpersonal terms: knowing how and when to collaborate or command, how to lead and develop subordinates, or how to manage and empower networks.

Excerpt from the Forward to the book Leading with Kindness
R. Glenn Hubbard, Dean and Russell L. Carson, Professor of Finance and Economics
Columbia Business School

If this is true for effective leaders, and feedback is craved by employees who want to continue to grow and develop, why is actionable, compassionate feedback so hard to provide?

Millennials often ask “why do I have to wait a whole year to get feedback?” They want feedback to be given in real-time just like they receive tweets from those they follow. It’s the instant gratification and learning that drives them and pushes them to improve.

Dan Schawbel “10 Ways Millennials are Creating the Future of Work,”

What’s the Problem?

In the workplace today, the thought of providing performance appraisals can stir up feelings of dread. The appraisal cycle often occurs once a year, perhaps twice. They are often delayed for months, so the employee receives December feedback the following February or March. Often, because performance feedback is so infrequent, the stakes seem higher — on both sides of the conversation.


Stakes are high for the manager, who is delivering feedback on an employee’s past performance, and providing proactive feedback to guide future performance. Stakes are high for the employee, who needs to process information while simultaneously managing their own emotions – whether it’s happiness, excitement, disappointment or frustration.


On top of the fear, the form of feedback can be problematic. While in-the-moment feedback is best, verbal feedback tends to evaporate quickly. It’s similar to the last moments in a doctor’s office where recommendations and instructions make perfect sense while the doctor is saying them, but are hard to recall even moments later. At the moment of opportunity, how might we make feedback persistent?


Transforming Dread into Growth and Delight

As new graduates enter the workforce, managers will need ways to reduce the high stakes mindset and provide more specific, useful, and timely feedback. Taking a lesson from some large online classes, incorporating peer feedback takes some of the load off managers. This feedback enables greater transparency within the team. Employees learn to recognize skills based on observable contributions – gaining confidence in their own expertise, and building respect for the talents of others.


Employees also benefit from receiving multiple points of view. This increases the likelihood of collaboration, since there is greater awareness of the diversity of skill sets and approaches to problem solving. Work gets done through conversations in the context of the work, rather than structured meetings, enabling everyone to be more responsive and productive with their time.


Feedback Increases Social Intelligence AND Relieves Email and Meeting Fatigue

A growing number of products and applications are addressing different aspects of this challenge. TalentCove launched a free Work Journal to help employees track small wins, share progress and get feedback to grow on. I think it could also be a great tool for global teams to use as an informal team to do list so that team members are all tracking on the same objectives. (formerly Rypple) is a sales performance management tool embedded into Salesforce that enables real-time coaching, recognition and rewards in the context of sales activities. I don’t know a lot about this one, but it seemed fitting to mention it here. CloudOn provides a platform for document collaborators to create, review and share Microsoft Office documents from any device and their favorite cloud storage provider. This means collaborators can share comments about the file without cluttering Mailboxes with a bunch of versions and feedback fragments for receiver to synthesize.


In the interest of full disclosure, TalentCove and CloudOn are clients. I wanted to seize this opportunity to gush about the cool work they’re doing.