That’s how I view feedback at work as well. It’s necessary, even critical, must-know information. I’ve also learnt to see it as a gift. Now, the above is typically received from friends, family and maybe the odd kind stranger (toilet paper, very grateful!). How do we feel? Appreciative, mortified, embarrassed, disbelief, maybe? Some or all of the above? Yet when at work, why is it when we receive feedback, the first response is usually disbelief, denial, anger and often defensiveness? I see this at interviews as well. It’s quite fascinating but also infuriating.
Infuriating because by not listening, hearing and understanding what is being said, portrayed or perceived, you deny yourself endless professional and personal opportunities for growth and development.
I’ve witnessed this over the years, at work, in interviews and in coaching sessions. I desperately want to encourage, motivate, inject optimism, positivity, and belief, but at the same time, what is that saying? You can lead a horse to water but…
Let’s not forget the effort required to offer the feedback. Often, it’s not an easy task to do. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t waste my time providing it. And at the same time, the beauty in the bloom! I’ve seen people soar and achieve far beyond their dreams, largely due to taking on the feedback offered. Here is what else they did, they asked for more, just like Oliver Twist! Welcoming feedback is key to your career’s success and your employability.
In our book, Employable, I talk about feedback in chapter 5, ‘Self-Awareness’. I refer to feedback as your number one friend in building the self-awareness attribute.
In fact, feedback is vital in cultivating all the 7 essential attributes! Self-awareness and self-reflection, when used properly, are your personal feedback tools. So, both self-awareness and self-reflection are key in situations where you cannot ask for feedback.
We have all been in those scenarios. Turning on your sensory receptors will see you facing them multiple times a day. When the receptors are on, you can pick the moment when things go south. When you become skilled, you can see, feel, and then adjust in the moment. That’s how careers soar.
When someone says to me they dread or are fearful of feedback, I plant the proposition, ‘if the feedback is true, wouldn’t you want to know?’. If the feedback is genuine and you don’t like what you have heard, at least you have the chance to change your behaviour/ attitude–if you desire and choose to.
What if you receive feedback, don’t like what you hear and think it can’t possibly be right? Instead of reacting defensively or adversely (disaster, please, please don’t do that!), ask questions and seek examples to understand better. Then request time to consider what has been shared and reconvene to discuss in a couple of days. This gives you time to reflect.
It’s also ok to say if you are upset by what you have heard and would like to discuss later. This shows maturity! But ensure you do go back to discuss; otherwise, it may show denial, avoidance and your head stuck in the sand. When reflecting, we often see what has been shared as resonating or true.
Perception may be the issue at stake here. Again, wouldn’t you want to know how you are being perceived in a situation when your intention is not matching the perceived action? Receiving feedback will become a habit over time, and while it might never be pleasurable, its benefits will make you crave them.
As a final point, as managers, we have a responsibility to provide constructive feedback. I feel strongly that’s it’s our obligation to assist the person’s learning, development, and growth. That is how I view feedback first and foremost. I know it assists the business; of course, that’s a given, but I cannot help to put the human element first. Everyone in our business at EST10 is well versed in receiving and delivering feedback (for it goes both ways!). When we recruit for ourselves, the main aspect we hone in on is being open to feedback.
One of the pleasures and thrills of my job is seeing people in our team grow and excel, and feedback is a necessary component. Maybe I’m being a little selfish in satisfying my own needs!
So, if you are a manager, just as I have said to anyone receiving feedback to not be afraid; the same goes for you, do not be fearful of delivering feedback. Do so with the intention to assist. Be as candid as possible, but never lose your compassion and empathy. Please also provide an abundance of positive and good feedback. More of that, please!
‘Some people are nobody’s enemies but their own’. – Morris Bolter, Chapter 43, Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens.