Everyone seems to be talking about how to give feedback these days.
Organizations are even bringing in experts to train leaders on how to give feedback to their subordinates which is likely long overdue.
Yet, from my experience and observations, how we receive feedback might be more important than how feedback is given.
The reason is, we can’t control how feedback is given yet we can control how we react to it.
And a lot of people are not very good at giving feedback constructively.
This means, you will likely face more instances whereby you have to handle feedback that is poorly given rather than constructively given.
For this reason, I have been working on how I receive feedback for several years, especially after having faced some anonymous criticism after a 360-degree review.
The first most important lesson I learned is not to react in the moment and take the time to SaT as I have said many times, Slowdown and Think.
I came to observe that when getting feedback, there are three general purposes for the feedback:
Appreciation to motivate and encourage > Thank you to me :)
Coaching to increase knowledge, skill, capacity, help grow, evolve, build relationships > I need to improve
Evaluation to relay where you stand versus expectations > I am not meeting expectations, or both sides have different expectations
I also noticed my inner voice might be talking to me in a defensive posture.
My reaction might sound like this, “this is wrong and not true.”
“They don’t have the whole picture.”
“They don’t know what they are talking about.”
The moment I would hear these defensive comments in my head, I knew it would be better to take even more time to think before responding.
So, one exercise I tried was asking someone I trust.
“Here is the feedback I just got. I think it is wrong. I feel I should reject it. Do you think this feedback is part of my blind spot? Do I do this sometimes? If so, when and where and with whom? What impact do you think it has?”
The person answering must be honest, not just supportive which is what we usually want, yet it won’t help us evolve and grow.
This is not easy stuff.
Two decades ago, I used this technique and based on the answer I received from someone I trusted, it helped me on a path of behaviour modification for my own benefit.
It is tough, yet it can work.
Another technique I have used is that I go back and review the feedback.
Often, I have found that people tend to give too much feedback to absorb in one sitting once the feedback floodgates are open.
When I have done this, I have found that some of the feedback might be accurate and some not, yet hearing the part that is not accurate, the entire message gets placed in the “this is wrong and not true,” folder.
So, beware that there might be more than one topic in the feedback that you are getting.
If this is the case, go back to the person and address them in separate conversations.
“From what you are saying, in my perspective, there are two topics we need to discuss, both are important.”
It is important to acknowledge that each person or side is part of the system or problem. Yet, it can be true that each side may not be part of the system or problem to the same extent.
Remember that both sides may think the other side should change and the problem will be solved.
Once you can clearly see what is being discussed and if you understand the impact and the impact can be demonstrated to an unbiased third party, you need to take responsibility for your part.
And, if feasible, ask the person who gave you feedback for help. This gives you an opportunity to provide feedback as well.
“It would help me if you would …”
Do not forget, we all make mistakes. Do not beat yourself up, own-it, course correct, and move forward.
Also, in keeping with trying to have fun at work, even in tough times, what I have tried to do is give myself a 2nd score; score yourself on how you handled the feedback. And, let others know the score you gave yourself. This could act to ease the tension and even make people laugh.
I usually strive for a 7.8 out of 10. Yes, I have actually done this and shared with others.
Lastly, allow me to ask you another question.
What kind of feedback would be most useful to you right now?
Go ask for it before you get feedback, badly.