I loved feedback when it emphasized my strengths. I listened to opportunities I needed to work on. However, I never proactively sought out the feedback that would make me better, nor did I spend a lot of time after it was given taking action based on that feedback. I either felt the feedback wasn’t valuable or I felt I didn’t need it. In many cases, even if it was valuable, I typically fell back into old habits and waited until the next performance appraisal to hear something similar.
As previously stated, I typically hit the statistical performance expectations, so I rarely invested the appropriate amount of time or effort into making a difference for myself. The irony is that the same feedback given to me caused a lot of my frustration. I felt that the management providing me the feedback must have been part of a conspiracy if different people wrote similar feedback about me. I just didn’t get it. I now tell people that feedback is not about agreeing or disagreeing with what they’ve heard, it is about doing something with it. Whether or not it has validity, at that point in time someone deemed it worth mentioning, therefore something needs to be done about it.
Feedback is considered negative in most people’s eyes. It is human nature to defend ourselves or feel that others are simply being judgmental. Feedback is a process designed to make us better. Your reaction to the process, and the feedback itself, is what will make us stronger. With addictive behavior, it is often said that admission is half the battle. Your ability to admit that you are not perfect is your first step towards being more open to feedback. Your strength will show when you are able to recognize the validity of that feedback and be accountable enough to do something about it. We should all take action on the constructive opinions designed to make us stronger. Someone invested the time and had the courage to provide it, and therefore we should do something about it. The key is to understand that we need to move away from the feeling that it is all negative and just grasp hold of the nuggets of wisdom sitting on our doorstep.
Do we need to implement every bit of feedback presented to us? No. However, we need to seriously listen to it and consider it. Again, it is not a matter of whether we agree or not, it is a matter that someone somewhere perceives something about you that needs to be addressed. It is worth the investment to pay attention to this gift.
As we open ourselves up to being more accepting of feedback, we should also go on the offensive. We should be proactive about asking for it and not wait for a prescribed time or place. Who said you had to wait until your year-end review to make yourself better? If you are even luckier and work with a company in which you are having monthly conversations, you should consider yourself blessed.
We should take advantage of every feedback opportunity and never let it go by without actively asking what we can do to be better. Once you get comfortable with asking, you will start to gain the trust needed to expand the feedback process, thus allowing more sincerity and depth to the overall conversation. That depth, in turn, makes each subsequent conversation more impactful. The proactive approach may surprise some of the people you work with early on, but it will eventually allow you to build a bond. In time, you will find that more people become open to it. Try to imagine that every day is a holiday with the free-for-all feedback right there for the taking.
I rarely have meetings with people I directly work with without asking what I can do for them and what I can do differently. I now thirst for feedback and gain respect from anyone who is willing to stop and provide it to me.
I am an active provider of unsolicited, balanced feedback. I know that I had hesitation as to my own receptiveness to feedback early on. I also realize that many of my colleagues are not in the habit of asking for feedback, especially if they do not work directly for me. I do what I can to position my coaching in a way that they are an active part of the process or can easily buy in to it. It’s important to not let a coachable moment go, since it is a gift.
We sometimes rely on the formality of our specific manager or a specific time of the year to receive an evaluation of our performances. What we need to do is give people feedback whenever it is relevant, regardless of who reports to whom, and give it when it is still fresh in all of our minds. Immediacy is often lost otherwise, which impacts the benefit. As the one providing the feedback, I work to ensure that I am balanced in my approach, and that I gauge how the person may react, but to still make it a point to provide it as soon as realistically possible. The key is to provide non-biased critical feedback that will make an individual stronger. I have actually gained many mentors by providing this type of teaching feedback. The responses I have received have been along the lines of, “I wish someone said that to me earlier in my career,” or, “Thanks for telling me something I thought I didn’t want to hear.”
Whether you are the giver or the receiver, be honest and be direct (with a filter, if needed). I am not a big fan of the sandwich type of feedback by stating something positive, something that needs to be improved, and something positive again. The prescribed approach is too predictable and often comes across as insincere. If you are honest and forthright, you will build trust, respect, and credibility. To maximize the feedback process, make sure you attack the informal feedback channels to gather information. You can speak to your peers, as well as people that work for you and people for whom you work. In addition, you can talk with business partners whose paths you may cross but to whom you are not directly linked. The third-party, objective point of view is always valuable insight. Just be open to looking for it and doing something with it. Whether feedback is from up, down, or around, it is a gift.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby