Ah a word to strike fear into any self-respecting employee. Who doesn’t feel anxious when they are about to get some feedback. Who doesn’t feel nervous and/or defensive. It’s natural isn’t it?
Often the feedback we receive is part of an ill organised, poorly trained process called “Performance Management”. Sometimes we are lucky enough to work with peers or Managers who are skilled at giving feedback and genuinely care about you and are invested in helping you improve. Such a gift.
No matter how skilled or how good the intent of someone giving you feedback, the effect relies a lot on our ability to receive it. Common reactions are:
· To be defensive and argue
· To say nothing and skulk away to lick our wounds
· To cry
· To be angry
· To ignore it
· To bitch about it with our friends
BUT, what if it could help you develop? What if it doesn’t?
My top 5 tips for dealing with feedback
1. LISTEN. That means shutting your mouth and stop your brain from thinking about how to defend what someone is telling you. Just listen. Take it in. Write it down. Don’t talk.
I had a great Manager in my first HR job. He cared about me getting better and he gave me lots of great feedback. I repaid his kindness by arguing, defending myself and generally being a pain. He used to hold his hand up as if staying stop. Well he was saying stop. Stop talking and start listening!
2. ASK QUESTIONS. Not defensive angry questions like “how you can say that?!” but curious and enquiring questions like “could you tell me more about that? Do you have an example to illustrate what you are talking about?”
3. PROCESS. Think about what the feedback means to you. Is it helpful? Is the person genuinely trying to help? I once had a peer who told me I spoke too much during the team meeting. I really reflected on that feedback. No one had ever said that to me before and I really didn’t think I talked too much in our meetings. On reflection I think the problem was that this person needed to speak more in the meetings but blaming me was an easier option than owning their behavior. I thought about that feedback for more than a week and then decided it wasn’t about me and discarded it.
Other feedback I received I really took to heart and thought carefully about how I could integrate it into my style.
4. SAY THANK YOU It’s pretty hard to give another person feedback. Sometimes that person has agonised about how to deliver the message so as not to upset you (or themselves). They have demonstrated courage and that they care for you, your wellbeing and your career. Thank them.
5. OWN IT. It’s relatively easy to give positive feedback but people don’t generally like to give feedback that might be perceived as negative or could cause conflict. If someone has taking the time, you should try and own it. You could ask others for their opinion. The more you own your own behavior the better chance you have to do something about it
Would love to hear your feedback stories!