John Brewer Coaching & Consulting
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5 tips for that healthy feedback feeling.

In a previous post I wrote about my productivity challenge. One sure fire way to improve your productivity is to master the art of giving and receiving feedback. 

I've had numerous roles where focusing on the customer, listening for feedback and continually repeating that feedback loop process has paid dividends. There have also been many times when the internal feedback process I have been involved in, has gone poorly, leaving me feeling wronged, judged and confused. And from what I hear, others have had the same experience too.

Feedback is rarely comfortable, sometimes poorly timed, typically something that is procrastinated over, delivered and not fully discussed. 

Paralympian Tracey Hinton puts complete faith in her guide providing pure constructive feedback. He has to repay her trust with an acute awareness of all her blind spots, sensitive to space, pace, sound and her feedback style. It's a remarkably beautiful relationship.

This is a great image to bear in mind, as we consider the art of giving and receivinghelpful and healthy feedback. 

Have you ever had a feedback conversation where you've acknowledged there's lots of data present, but there is such a sensory overload that you don't know how to digest it, or what to do with it? I've had a few. A performance evaluation is one type of feedback and it certainly has value. But if it's delivered too late, or out of context it can be a problem. 

Not getting your "appreciation mix" right is another issue. I've learnt from my team in the past, that I have incorrectly assumed I have been appreciative, when in fact I just wasn't hitting the mark expected of me. Some of this is about understanding your own emotional state and that of others. My British reserve and my focus on getting the job done, has often derailed my delivery.

Emotion often disables feedback though. Stone and Heen authors of "Thanks for the feedback" explore the brain's hard wiring and why we get so emotional, identifying three triggers of derailment; truth, relationships and identity. In other words the feedback process often doesn't go very far as we leap to judgment and get lost in our own sense of what's right based on our data, the relationship between giver and receiver, and our ego. I've explored this, and it works equally badly at home as it does at work by the way!

Why does this happen? One reason is that we are under pressure, we become blind to our behavior and unwilling to take the time to discuss feedback - we may have a conversation or receive feedback, but rarely are the giver and receiver fully present and open to exploring feelings from both perspectives. 

Here are 5 tips for developing a healthy feedback feeling:

  1. Actively seek out feedback. It starts with you. I'm always impressed by managers who are curious to know the impact they are having on others 
  2. Shine a light on a two way communication process. Be clear on the purpose of the feedback conversation you are having and agree boundaries. Explore feelings on both sides. Consider recording a session and comparing your behavior and how it shifts over time
  3. Clarify what you heard. Don't close the door on gathering insights and understanding a different perspective by jumping to conclusions
  4. Be kind. Our children are taught this, acts of kindness inspire us. I have been stunned by the tone of feedback I have seen in anonymous feedback surveys. Feedback communicated with negative energy and abuse without evidence of compassion and some rational data points is not constructive
  5. Manage the conversation. Listen and learn, check what you've heard, discuss ... move to interpretation and progress through recognizing the relationship dynamic and the development of mutual feelings