Receiving feedback from other people that see our flaws and strengths altogether is crucial, both at work and in our personal lives. And that’s because we all have our blind spots and getting the right feedback can help us direct our attention towards those skills that we’re might be missing or need to be improved.
Just as important is what we do with this information, do we fall into an overthinking spiral that takes us to „I am not good enough”, or do we just try to get the best out of it and drive valuable learning?
True, feedback can be challenging. The spoken and the unspoken, the formal and the informal, it can be hard to give and just as hard to receive it.
Unfortunately, there are few feedback givers whose words feel like a warm, comforting hug. And after getting their input, we realized that we’ve always thought the same but couldn’t put it into words.
But most of us aren’t great innate feedback givers. And for the sake of enriched relationships, better problem-solving skills, and faster learning, we need to take a serious look at feedback as a powerful tool and master its process.
With the ongoing stress and increased levels of anxiety brought by the pandemic, the process of feedback giving, receiving, and processing became more challenging than ever before.
And it is our responsibility to bring back our attention to what matters most: supporting each other to get through, learn and grow. That’s the quest we’ve enrolled upon.
How to Give Effective Feedback in the Workplace – Setting a Feedback Culture
First, you need to set the culture for feedback – and it starts with little steps every day.
Genuine praise, recognition, and compliments are simple ways to start building trust and improve relationships at work.
And nothing sets up a feedback culture better than asking for feedback yourself.
Ask for it, embrace it and act upon it – don’t defend your position, genuinely approach the conversation as a way to understand more, empathize more, and why not, grow more! Whether you like it or not.
You can also use various assessments to get a base for future development. And it can be very useful when you approach them looking for strengths and areas of improvement, not just a diagnosis of a moment in time.
Another thing you can do is set the time for these kinds of conversations, even 5 minutes feedback shots, which is very important for the ongoing development and learning of your people.
However, it is critical to deliver your feedback in the right manner – pay attention to the conversational tone and genuine dialogue.
Likewise, make it regular and do not wait too long – the closer to a specific event, the better.
Knowing your intentions is also mandatory, and future development should be at its heart.
Don’t forget to engage in solutions and follow up.
And never forget that the purpose of feedback is to improve things and come up with adjustments when necessary.
This TED video introduces a 4 part formula to deliver any message well:
- Start with a micro-yes, a short question that lets the other person know that feedback is about to be given.
- Second, use a data-point naming precisely what you saw or heard.
- Then third, use an impact statement – where you name how the data point impacted you.
- Always end with a question since it creates commitment, making the feedback a joint problem-solving situation.
Taking care and time to deliver your message with clarity and sensitivity is the best approach to help direct people towards the best selves they can be, whether at work or in their personal lives.
Furthermore, be clear and concise, make feedback conversational, have the people you are talking to state their takeaways at the end.
And ask for feedback on the conversation itself – improvements come to both ways.
Processing and Driving Learning from Receiving Feedback
According to Sheila Heen, co-author of Thanks for the Feedback and Difficult Conversations, feedback finds itself at the junction of two human needs.
On the one hand, we want to learn and grow, and on the other, we have the need to be respected and accepted just the way that we are now.
Being able to admit that you have blind spots, recognize and manage your resistance and engage in conversations with confidence and curiosity is both brave and beautiful. We call this intellectual humility.
Knowing that we can be wrong and being open to different perspectives.
Actively seek feedback and look for what you can improve – it doesn’t only change you; it changes how other people see you and your relationship’s very nature and quality.
And, as naturally follows, work with the freshly received information.
Receiving is about what they say to you, while processing is about what you say to yourself.
Ask yourself what makes sense about what they are saying and what is the best thing to try?
Finally, examine and drive learning outcomes.
We are primarily focused on our preparation around receiving feedback – how to remain calm and collected while saying ”thank you for your feedback”, but we should not overlook the processing: what happens when we’re left alone with our thoughts.
Dr Shanita Williams, author of Feedback Mentality: The key to unlocking and unleashing your full potential, advocates for an intentional approach. Instead of absorbing and caring around feedback like a sponge, take it through a strain: thoughtfully examine the mistake, learn from it and then discard it.
You can watch her TEDx here.
Yes, it takes good giving, active seeking, and intentional processing for feedback to do its magic.
But the good part is that if you’re aware of the process and want to support growth on both your side and the people you’re working with/for, you can work with any feedback.
It all starts with looking at giving and processing feedback as skills to develop, allowing us to support each other to learn and grow.