This appeared in print as part of the story “Best Laid Plans” In 2007, the City of Columbia’s visioning document suggested that council...
Giving or receiving feedback can be a powerful influence on learning and achievement. Former athletes are typically a little easier to coach as employees because they are accustomed to receiving constant feedback on what they need to improve.
Many employees are not used to having consistent feedback. Some very much desire it, and some want to avoid it. How we intend, administer, receive, and process feedback depends largely on how we feel about ourselves.
If we have a high intrinsic strength and belief about ourselves, we can give feedback with good intention and guide it for better impact. If we have a lower intrinsic strength and belief about ourselves, we could fall into a trap of knocking someone down to make ourselves look stronger or better.
Self-awareness and self-management are essential for leaders to provide useful feedback to others. A high degree of awareness helps us understand our personal power and how our behavior affects those we lead. Administering feedback that is negative or improvement-oriented requires us to balance our own perspective with that of the person we are leading.
If we do not present the feedback in a way in which they can identify or see the problem, why or how could they attempt to change? To do a better job of giving feedback, we have to examine our intentions in giving feedback and its impact on the receiver. We must also exhibit behaviors that enhance and build trust.
Those receiving feedback must be open to it, and they must accept the support required to commit to behavior changes.
What are the things that block feedback from being effective for the receiver? Sometimes, we are apprehensive about getting feedback because we attach a negative meaning to it. If we think all feedback is improvement-oriented, then we must be doing something bad and must change something.
But not all feedback is bad. You receive feedback if your neighbor tells you that your landscaping looks good or if your child’s teacher praises his or her developing social skills. Feedback can be appreciative and should be given liberally. If someone gives us plenty of appreciative feedback, then we are more likely to accept the improvement-oriented feedback they give to us.
Perhaps a customer lets you know how delivery could be better; your hairdresser tells you another cut would suit you better than the bangs you wanted. We get this type of feedback all the time, and we are pretty okay with it.
Then there is the other feedback, the one that leaves us frustrated, flat, or even angry. What’s the difference? Mainly, it’s the emotional story we have attached to it, or in other words, how we receive it. At best, we see this feedback as too critical, and at worst, we see it as an attack on us personally. Our brains whisper to us, “Is this what they really think of you?”
Pushing our emotional triggers aside or pretending they don’t exist will not work. You will have some sort of mental attachment to any feedback you receive, so don’t pretend it isn’t there. Sorting out our emotional triggers and understanding them is a great step toward better accepting feedback.
If we accept that the feedback we are receiving is factual and accurate, then what we are dealing with are truth triggers. All too often, we hear “truth triggers” and our reactions to it are extreme.
For example, your manager might mention you were a little quiet and aloof at the networking event. This hits a truth trigger: you are naturally introverted and have worked to overcome this in social situations, but on this particular situation, your energy level was low or something was distracting you.
Rather than responding to the feedback with vulnerability, you respond with, “What was I supposed to do? Jump up on the table, tell jokes, and dance?” The feedback has hit the truth trigger, and you overreacted instead of dealing with the feedback in a healthy way.
To do a better job in receiving feedback, we have to closely examine the triggers and the stories we tell ourselves in relation to the feedback we receive. If our intrinsic belief about ourselves is lower, it could be harder to receive and accept the feedback needed to make necessary changes and move ahead productively.