Yesterday was about relationships and organizational culture. Giving and receiving feedback was the example of how behaviors get made into policies/norms in an organization. As promised, today’s post will contain tips on how to effectively give/receive feedback.
Feedback inherently is neither right nor wrong. It is given through the lens of one person who has a whole set of mental filters on how they see the world.
For the giver:
Always start with this question posed to yourself:
Why am I giving this feedback?
If your answer is to be in service to another, such as assisting them in becoming more effective, please proceed.
If your answer is to get someone to stop doing something that’s bothering you, then that is called reporting impact. Instead of calling it feedback, try this:
“Hey, BB, I am having an issue and hope you can assist with it. I am having trouble concentrating. When I hear your phone notifications throughout the day, it breaks my state of concentration and affects my productivity. Would you be willing to silence it or turn down the volume?”
If they say, “No,” then at least you explored that solution to your problem. Or, you could ask for their ideas on how to make the environment work for both of you. No traction? Move on.
Now that you’re clear…ASK PERMISSION! Ask the intended receiver if you can give them some feedback. If they aren’t ready, ask when.
Keep it behaviorally specific. Describe the behavior. Report impact/thoughts/emotions. Get curious—ask what’s going on for that person, their motivation, intentions. Request for a different behavior/action.
Ex: I saw you typing on your phone during the meeting. When I see that, I think you’re not present with what’s being discussed or you’re communicating your thoughts elsewhere. Is that what’s going on or is there something else happening? I would like to see you giving your attention to the speaker and share your thoughts/feelings here in the hopes that it will make these meetings more interesting and productive. Will you refrain from using your phone during the meeting?
Focus on the now. No piling on (building up examples from the past to lay on a person in the now). This can destroy trust (“Why haven’t you said anything until now?”) and create emotional overload while trying to process all of your past examples. Namely, you’ll lose them in the moment to taking a trip inside their head. P.S. don’t fill your rucksack…it’s weighing everyone down.
Be confident in giving it alone—now is not the time for allies. In fact, if members of a group publicly agree or add in on your feedback, please ask them to refrain. That will only create more piling on in multiple directions.
For the receiver:
You can take it or leave it. This is not a coping mechanism approach. This is based on those aforementioned mental filters, which develop based on one’s experiences. For example, I had given feedback to a senior leader in a 20-person group training session that her verbal contributions were often and lengthy. I asked her to shorten her contributions and how often she spoke. Another person spoke up and said that her examples and stories helped them understand and apply the material. She then had two sets of data to draw from in shaping her behavior.
May be applicable in certain contexts. For example, speaking large quantities of words may be beneficial in some settings and hindering in others, e.g., a full day retreat versus a 30-minute meeting.
Emotional reaction is likely to occur. We are meaning-making beings, which includes how we see and feel about ourselves. We accept and publicly embrace positive emotions that come along with our positive feedback. Not so much with negative feedback. If you find yourself responding with high emotions, first try and self-regulate as listening goes down when emotions go up. You’ll need access to your brain’s executive function ONLY to ask clarifying questions. Do not defend, justify, or rationalize. Under those defensive postures is a need to understand. If you can do that internal work quickly, do so. If you cannot, you have two choices: 1. Ask the speaker to repeat what was said so you can ensure you’ve heard it (even writing it down can be a way to make sure you got it and regulate your emotions). 2. Report out that you’re overwhelmed with this new information and you need some time/space. Boundaries are important.
Say, “Thank-you.” This phrase comes naturally after positive feedback. Try it with negative feedback as well. A person spoke up, hopefully in the interest of helping you become more effective. That takes courage and vulnerability. Treat it like a gift.
Notice how most of these examples can create openings or strengthen your relationships. IF…
· You’re truly solution-oriented
· Genuinely curious about another
· Vulnerable enough to check out your assumptions
· Not attached to being right.
Speaking of which…what did I miss? Please add your tips/experiences/disagreements in the comments. Thank you.
Hearing this word probably stirs up feelings inside of you. It does for me. And, it does for organizations. Have you ever heard the expression… “praise in public, criticize in private?” This has generated a cultural norm, that this is the correct way of interacting with another where there are more than two participants. Is this the “right” way?
I believe that most norms/policies were created because of one instance. Picture it…one instance where someone gave another person critical/corrective feedback in front of others and it went poorly. So, a norm/policy was enacted to curb this behavior. Why? It was probably uncomfortable for those who witnessed it and severely uncomfortable for the one receiving it. This instance probably created some interpersonal residue and fear. I get it. To minimize the impact, make a rule that says, “Don’t criticize in public.”
I also believe that this is a symptom—it’s not the diagnosis. Meaning, the inability to deliver feedback well is not the issue. It’s the culture. The culture consists of relationships, operating norms, how we get things done, roles/goals, values, etc. If the culture isn’t one that supports flubs or airs hurt feelings, then we’ll never build our skills. Giving and receiving feedback IS a skill. Too many times we believe we have to perfect our skills before we can practice them. False. Life is the playground/practice field. Get monkeying around.
Do you have a trusted colleague/relationship at work? If not, start there. Have a real conversation about your relationship…
Do you trust me? If not, what behaviors do you need to see to build trust?
What types of things can I come to you with?
I’m looking at trying on some new skills. Would you be willing to give me some feedback on three ways I am or am not performing this new skill?
***I realize these are all questions that are geared for oneself. To build an effective relationship, you must inquire about and support the other. AND, to build relationships/trust, especially in the working environment, it’s helpful if someone extends some vulnerability. So, in these examples, that someone would be you. Read the room. If someone seems utterly shocked that you’re asking them for anything, circle back and work on building the relationship!
I began with FEEDBACK. Tomorrow I will be providing some skill building tips on how to give feedback effectively. Today, make building the relationships the norm.
Brandy Boak has worked in organization development since 2007. Enhancing the "human" part of organizations has been the biggest payoff for herself and others.