Giving and Receiving FeedbackNov 01, 2022
Burnout happens, not because we’re trying to solve problems, but because we’ve been trying to solve the same problem over and over. Hand in hand with the courage to honestly confront your reality comes the courage to bring to the surface and confront your toughest personal and professional issues, which often involve an individual whose attitude, behavior or performance is a problem.
It is difficult to confront someone whose behavior or performance is less than ideal. The payoff for confronting it is worth it. You will realize relief, success, health, freedom from stress, happiness, a high-performing team, a fulfilling personal relationship.
And because of what’s in store for you if you continue to avoid addressing and resolving the tough issues. If you think this glitch in performance, caused in part because of someone’s mismanagement or ineffective leadership style, is too complex or sensitive to solve? The consequences of not giving feedback can cause damage to everyone on the team.
Some things are much more difficult to talk about than others. Many business groups operate with an unspoken rule book, including a list of things that cannot be discussed, topics that are too risky to bring up. Sometimes we avoid saying what needs to be said because we’re sure there will be consequences.
Let’s take a look at a reality every organization must regularly examine: what are the skills, attitudes, and talents of our employees, and are there gaps between those resources and what our market demands?
Susan Scott covers all of this in her book “Fierce Conversations” and I highly recommend it!
What’s needed is a real conversation, maybe multiple conversations, followed by relentless follow-through and ongoing support. While some people can’t be saved, many can. Most people will comply with clear requests.
Have you communicated clearly not only the results but also the behavior that you want? What about attitude?
If you’re upset by the thought of confronting someone’s behavior, you’re in excellent company. It is far less threatening to talk about lack of results on the team than to look straight into someone’s eyes and address the specific behavior that may be causing the decline. Instead, we talk with others over lunch and by the coffeepot about the person whose behavior is driving us crazy. If you really want to resolve the issue, go directly to the source and confront the person’s behavior one-to-one, in private.
Many of us fear confrontation because it hasn’t gone well in the past. A lot of our attempts have failed miserably. We don’t know how to be successful this time, and the stakes are fairly high.
The very outcomes we fear if we confront someone’s behavior are practically guaranteed to show up if we don’t. It will just take longer, and the results will likely arrive at the worst possible time, when we are least expecting it, with a huge cost associated.
Feedback should be easy to give, but it rarely is. When we recognize that we need to give feedback to others, especially giving feedback to our boss, it can feel scary. Could I lose my job if I give my boss this feedback? The most important thing to consider if you feel uncomfortable giving feedback is that you need to put the effectiveness of the team before your discomfort.
When giving feedback, we need to be present and into the conversation, and make it real. There are multiple, competing truths about someone’s performance, behavior or attitude. Before giving feedback, ask yourself is your interpretation of what you saw or heard accurate, or could there be a different perspective?
Describe the situation that took place that is prompting the feedback. Make sure you tell them when it happened with some specificity? This allows the other person to remember the time and place you are referring to with some accuracy.
Make sure you tell them what you saw or heard? Describe what happened or what they did just like a video camera would capture it, without commentary.
After you set the stage with the subject you want to talk about, ask what their perception is.
The person may already know it didn’t go well and may have a perspective about their behavior, actions or results that is more insightful than yours. Certainly, it helps them to save face if they already know. This is your opportunity to allow them to process and, in a sense, give themselves feedback before you launch into yours.
But what if the person doesn’t seem to know what you’re talking about or didn’t see the problem? Now it’s time to briefly, describe the impact for them, for you, and/or for others. Why you are having this conversation with them. Why this is important. The implications of this behavior. This is an important part of this conversation and one that often gets left out. You are letting them know why you were compelled to talk with them about this.
Receiving feedback gracefully is one of the hardest things to do. We want to be liked. We want to appear as though we are competent in everything we do. When we learn we have behaviors that need correcting, it often takes us by surprise and can be difficult to hear.
I think at times we all receive feedback that doesn’t resonate with us right away. Sometimes the feedback can be off the mark.
Even when the delivery is off-putting, the question to ask yourself is, “Have I ever received feedback like this before and ignored it? Maybe there is something to this feedback that I need to take a second look at.”
You, the receiver of feedback, are in the “driver’s seat” regarding whether you will hear, believe, incorporate feedback, and even thank the person for talking with you, or stash it in the trash as underserved or unimportant.
We take feedback personally because it is personal. When someone giving us feedback says, “It’s just business,” we know that’s not the case because our work identities are intertwined with ourselves, the whole person. We feel vulnerable. When we are given feedback we were not expecting or that may be embarrassing for us, our ego can prevent us from hearing this feedback or assimilating it in order to make changes. So let’s focus on how to receive feedback.
Receiving feedback effectively doesn’t mean you have to believe every bit of the feedback you receive. Instead, receiving feedback effectively means you participate in the conversation and look at the feedback together. We can enrich the relationship by asking clarifying questions so that we more fully understand the feedback. This is often surprising for the feedback giver and creates a positive cycle of giving and receiving feedback between both of you.
But receiving unsolicited feedback can be tricky. It’s much easier to be prepared when we solicit the feedback, much harder when it arrives uninvited. If you have advance notice, come prepared. If you have data or information that you can use to explain or support your perspective, bring it. Focus on leaning into the feedback and come with a curious frame of mind. Listen carefully, without interrupting, to what is being said (and how it’s being said).
When we get squeezed, what comes out of us? Whatever’s inside us. Who we are is who we are. So if your conversations at work are yielding disappointing results, then be willing to adapt your communication until you feel they are effective.
When we confront behavior with courage and skill, we are offering a gift. Let’s put this into action. I encourage you to be willing to give feedback when needed and to receive feedback with grace and gratitude!
My greatest joy is helping clients become people who lead. My mission is to help people grow into the strong, successful people that I know they can be. My passion is building great talent while building authentic and long-lasting relationships! I also love using my experience as both a corporate executive and an entrepreneur to provide actionable feedback that helps people reach new heights no matter if that is working in the corporate world or as an entrepreneur or as a stay-at-home parent! I start right where you are and we grow from there!
Growing up in a small town, I often found myself wondering if there were more to the world than this. After being given opportunities to lead, I genuinely felt like I was in my element for the first time in my life. I decided it was time to break free of my limitations and become the person I knew I was meant to be—confident to build a career that I had always imagined.
I have had a career signature of being asked by senior corporate leaders such as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Rick Wagoner to assume advisor-consultant roles with clients and executive teams. I was recruited by The Walt Disney Company to coach executives and worked jointly with their leadership to create career development plans for Disney’s Enterprise IT group.
As a recognized leader and mentor, I hold more than 20 years’ experience building relationships, developing teams, and coaching associates to success.
You can contact me via email at [email protected].
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