Feedback – The compass of life

February 15th, 2013 @   -  No Comments

Feedback is the compass of life. Good feedback directs us towards a better path. Like a good compass, it helps us determine our true north. Good feedback is indispensable for good performance. Bad or no feedback may lead us in the wrong direction.

The Quran is humanity’s feedback from Allah. Although it existed well before the time of the Prophet (PBUH), Allah revealed its verses throughout a 23-year period to deal with specific events. This way, humanity could better understand the teachings of the Quran.

In today’s institutionalized world, constructive feedback is essential to the performance of the individual as well as the institution. Without proper feedback your people would not know how well they are doing.

The Prophet (PBUH) built the best generations that ever lived through timely and relevant feedback to his companions.

What can you as a leader learn from the way the Prophet (PBUH) gave feedback to his companions?

The following are some key lessons:

Goals driven feedback

Feedback must always be related to a well-defined goal. An action could be right or wrong depending on our objective. The Prophet (PBUH) focused on helping people become better servants of Allah. He judged actions by whether or not they brought the person closer to Allah.

As a leader, is your feedback always driven by how your people may best serve the mission of the organization, achieve its vision and live by its core values?

Focus on what is important first

During the Meccan period, the Prophet (PBUH) focused on the main issue of Tawheed. He did not clutter it with any other messages. Only when the companions truly accepted the unity of Allah, all His attributes as their Lord and only deity worthy of worship, did the revelations start talking about other issues such as dealings between people, marriage, inheritance and so on.

In your organization, it is important that you focus initially on the mission, vision and core values. Once your people truly understand these, and how to live by them, start dealing with other issues.

Specificity

When the Quran or the Prophet (PBUH) gave feedback, it was always very specific to the issue at hand. When the Prophet (PBUH) saw or heard of something that pleased or displeased him, he would comment on it specifically. The companions were always very clear about his satisfaction or displeasure with something.

When Bilal (RA) reported to the Prophet (PBUH) that Abu Dhār called him “a son of a black woman”, the Prophet (PBUH) immediately said to Abu Dhār, “You are a man who still has jahiliyah (ignorance) in him.”

Are you giving specific feedback to your people? Is it specific enough for them to get the message without any doubt?

Regularity and timeliness

Today, many managers and supervisors only give feedback occasionally or in the end of the year performance review. This is often insufficient or too late, especially to a person who just spent 12 months going in the wrong direction.

The Prophet (PBUH) gave regular feedback to his companions. The Quran’s verses were always revealed at the right moment to explain, teach or direct the people concerned about the matters preoccupying them at that time. The believers could make immediate use of the revealed verses.

Feedback was available as soon as it was necessary. We can see this clearly in the Prophet’s handling of the incident with Abu Dhār and Bilal. The Prophet (PBUH) would also provide feedback at least once a week in his Friday sermon.

Do you give timely feedback or leave it until the formal “performance review”?

The best feedback is the one that is given when needed.

Method

The purpose of feedback is to improve performance and help people to achieve their objectives in the best way possible. Feedback that destroys the person, albeit with the best of intentions, is definitely not very useful. Therefore it is advisable to give positive feedback in public and criticism in private.

A man went to the Caliph Haroon ar-Rashid to advise him, but he was very harsh and rude. So Haroon ar-Rashid gently asked him, “My brother, are you better than Prophet Musa (AS)?”  The man replied, “No.” Haroon ar-Rashid followed up asking, “Am I worse than the Pharaoh?” The man again replied, “No.” Haroon ar-Rashid concluded, “You aren’t better than Musa (AS) and I’m not worse than the Pharaoh, yet when Allah sent Musa (AS) to the Pharaoh He told him, ‘Speak to him in a mild manner so that he might remember or fear’” (Quran 20:44).

There are many great lessons we can learn from the way the Quran and the Prophet (PBUH) gave feedback to individuals and humanity in general. Their advice was always relevant to the issue, factual, comprehensive and actionable.

 

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