Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lessons About Feedback From The Okra Salad Recipe

I cook South Indian dishes regularly. Last week I wanted to make Okra Salad and I looked up the recipe in the book Dakshin, by Chandra Padmanabhan. The author suggested that adding a bit of salt to the salad brings out the flavor and enhances the taste of the dish. But she cautioned that quantity and timing is everything. You have to sprinkle the salt over the dish at the end. If you add the salt in the beginning it will bring out the water in the okra and make the dish soggy, sticky and almost inedible. On the other hand, if you dump a spoon of salt after the dish is done and try to mix it, the okra crumbles into pieces and looks unappetizing.

There is a lot we can learn from this about giving feedback to a person about his or her performance. I have seen people, who in the name of feedback, pour cold water over every idea a person suggests. My colleagues do not open their mouth when such a person is around. Such people have good intentions. But they dampen the performance of everyone else around them.

The other extreme is managers who never give timely feedback and pour it all out during the annual performance review, leaving the employee wondering why the manager never shared his feedback throughout the year.

A good manager knows that the quantity and timing of feedback matters; very much like a good cook knowing when to add salt, how much to add and how to blend it in.

PS: In India the okra is called "ladies fingers". If you want to order Okra in a regular Indian restaurant in the US or Europe, look for "Bhindi Masala". Bhindi is the Hindi word for Okra. You will not find the Okra Salad that I make it any regular restaurant. I am afraid, it is a dish available only in South Indian house holds and select Indian vegetarian restaurants. Image Credit :

After I wrote this post, the Head of Customer Success at Rypple @dpriemer reached out to me via twitter and said that they have developed a suite of social software that enables managers to improve the performance of their team members by giving feedback. The Co-CEO of Rypple @ddebow liked the post as well.

I am not an active user of Rypple. But I have tried it. If you liked what I said and want a tool to engage your colleagues by giving them feedback, you may want to give Rypple a try. There is a free trial.

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