What if I asked you, “are you open to feedback?” Consider your true blue answer to that question. Are you really open to feedback? Are you a thirst for feedback? Are you of the opinion that to see yourself how others see you is a gift?
Throughout our careers we attend training seminars, workshops and perhaps take complimentary schooling in order to get ahead. Sometimes we are keenly aware of the areas we need to improve and yet other times we are completely oblivious. In other words, our gaps are in our blind spots.
It is here that the magic of perspective unfolds. When we are willing to embrace that a perspective other than our own can potentially shine a light on behaviours and/or missing skills that may be getting in the way of our results we can then begin the process of change.
It sounds simple enough right? However, it is here that many managers and employees fall short and instead the process of giving and receiving feedback (hearing where our gaps lie) creates conflict and upset. Instead, what was intended to be a meaningful conversation elicits defensiveness and resistance.
In an attempt to correct the outcome we often look at “what we said” as the source of breakdown in communication. Seldom do we address “who were being”. Were you righteous or arrogant in your delivery? What emotion were you present to as you spoke? In retrospective, what was your true intention for the exchange? What would change if you shifted your emotion, created a clear intention and then delivered the communication?
As the receiver of feedback, it is important for you to do your part in order to hear the feedback objectively. Let’s look at this further. Think about the conditions under which you best learn? What needs to be present for you? Trust, safety, compassion? An understanding of your learning style? Are you a kinesthetic learner? Visual or auditory? These are all important factors to consider, however another key area that plays a huge role in our ability to process feedback is our past. If we have had a bad or negative experience in receiving feedback this will impact how we receive feedback until we are willing to learn to trust the person, process and result again.
Having considered your own relationship to feedback, now consider your employees. Like you, in order to learn and thrive their basic, foundational needs must be met. Think of a specific time when you delivered feedback and/or a performance review. Did you provide adequate time for the meeting? What was your mood? What was your state of mind during the process? Do you have a structured process for giving feedback? How was your employee left after the conversation? Empowered and ready to implement change or disempowered and disgruntled? Remember, the communication exchange between a manager and an employee is a work “relationship” and as with any relationship, it is important that you have done your part to lay a positive foundation from which the conversation can occur.
It is incredibly important that both the giver and the receiver of feedback ensure that it is not delivered or received in a negatively personal way. Practice sticking to the facts, provide specific examples where possible and point to the behavior without diminishing the person’s character. Provide follow up and accountability, acknowledge change and encourage your employees to shift. Have them get that you want them to thrive.
Taking time to ensure that your methods of giving and receiving feedback make the difference you intended can have profound effects on your organization. Consider what results you and your organization could produce if all employees had not just a positive relationship to feedback but were a demand for it. What would it be like if employees asked questions and truly were interested in the answers? “Where do you see I can improve? What stands in the way of me promoting?” Creating an environment where feedback is trusted and welcomed encourages employees to become life-long learners, promotes innovation and cultivates creativity. Capitalize on opportunities to provide feedback and model the way by regularly engaging in receiving feedback from your staff no matter how high you climb in your career.
“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who `did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” – Charles Schwab