Feedback is the breakfast of champions – Ken Blanchard
When you hear this word what image strikes your mind? Is it a scarier one or a pleasant one?
My response to the feedback that I received from my Boss varied almost as much as 180 degrees. There’s a reason to it and I am going to explain this to you. It is not the same response for a similar feedback given by two different people. What’s different? That’s the secret.
Well, if I tell you it is our conditioned mind that paints this picture would you be surprised?
Let’s do an exercise. Recall a recent (not so good) feedback you received from your Boss or if you are your own Boss then from a customer.
What did you feel when you first heard that you aren’t doing well? Did you receive this feedback wholeheartedly? Now I am underpaying your emotions do I? Well, most obvious reaction would be to get in to a reactive mode. It could be going internal, self-talk or grumble while still not showing it up on face. It could be wrecking out the emotions on the face of your boss. That moment whatever is our reaction is out of conditioning that happens over years. Very seemingly we are taught to be always successful in life and to get good grades and to grab a great job offer and to lead our way through, not all that turns true very often. With the conditioned mindset failure becomes a taboo and it also becomes fear to hide behind excuses. We are taught to respond in a certain way to a certain situation. So if we are receiving negative feedback we tend to sink in our shell. There is either resentment or powerlessness. Resentment creates anxiety while powerlessness robs us of our soul to act. Then comes the downward spiral. Our thoughts, actions and reactions set the tone for our work and the next thing we do is we get defensive. Being defensive means we aren’t acknowledging the person who gives feedback, we aren’t acknowledging the fact that other person see’s us differently and the fact that we can improve. Improvement doesn’t mean what you did was BAD, it only means there’s a next mile to add. However, from our childhood experiences to the adulthood we learn that negative feedback has to do with our shortcomings, something we will be penalized for. Does it have to happen that way? Most certainly feedback’s are meant to bring out the best in person. Even when they are given in the most hostile manner there is a sense that one can make to get better. If the feedback comes from a person who is gentle and friendly it is 99% of the time accepted without a hitch, however if the person isn’t soft spoken or friendly the receiver gets defensive. As a receiver you will tend to benefit from hearing out the person. It gives the giver a chance to be heard and the receiver to show empathy. You may have a different view however when you allow the other person to be heard you are increasing your listening for him. He in turn will give you a chance to be heard. You will get a chance to disagree and have the giver understand your context.
Feedback’s have been considered stumbling blocks. In reality they are divine source of measuring one’s effectiveness. They are divine source of correcting the path and an opportunity to learn. Emotions turn high and spoil the game. Setting them aside paves way for openness in communication and mutual trust.
Some tools you can use while receiving feedback:
- Always affirm to yourself before the start of session, that this discussion is going to create a value add for me and for the other person.
- Carry a pen and notepad to jot down the essence of other person’s views. Remember they are only views.
- Have 3 point agenda to propose while opening up discussion. One is to let giver know that you are open to all suggestions of improvement. Second is you are intending to create value for the company, giver and yourself. Third: you wanted to acknowledge the giver for he took some time out to share his feedback. This will set the tone for further discussion. You are creating an empathetic listening opportunity to create a win-win discussion.
- Share minutes of discussion so that it becomes easier to track progress and close the open action items.
- Agree to meet every month or fortnightly to know how you are seen on areas of improvement and also on areas that you are doing well.
- State example or exact instance to reference how you did well in certain areas.
- Do not make a commitment on something you aren’t sure of. For e.g. your boss asks you if you can take up a target of improving your productivity by 50%. It isn’t realistic. You may agree to go step by step starting with 10% or 20% and then raising it. Your boss is just testing you whether you are accepting anything. Sometime saying NO upfront saves you from a disgrace later. You can propose for an alternative of incremental targets.
- Summarize the discussion. This reiterates your commitment towards your boss, yourself and makes the discussion worthy of each other’s time.
Being accountable is good and being proactively accountable is better. People who rise in organizations aren’t necessarily the most intelligent people on the planet; however they are quick learners & quick adapters.
It’s difficult to rise out of conditioned mindset. However it isn’t impossible to change the way of being. Receiving feedback in right spirit and context will set our tone for growth and fulfillment for years to come.
Seat with your Boss or customer and set the context of receiving feedback to have a win-win partnership. Use all the tools mentioned above. Act on the feedback and after a quarter assess its effectiveness.