This week we are talking about the “other side” of feedback; receiving it. Isn’t it funny that when we are the giver the receiver isn’t any good and when we are the receiver the giver isn’t any good? Ah the irony! Feedback is a big deal in organizations, on teams and for leaders and yet, most of us are not that great at giving it…or receiving it. One study definitely did show that people want feedback AND also that it was a piece of critical feedback that helped them the most. Now what they didn’t say was how much of that type of feedback people wanted. There is no doubt that there needs to be a greater level of appreciation than criticism to have a healthy relationship of any kind. But, let’s stay on track here and get to the point of being better at receiving feedback.
Now some of what we are talking about today is based on the work of authors Shelia Heen and Douglas Stone and their book “Thanks For The Feedback”. They have a great way of talking about the difficult parts of conversations and a great way of talking about feedback. One of their key points is that we should be mindful to separate appreciation, coaching and evaluation. We like this. Appreciation is being valued and not only for what we do but also for who we are being and this builds the relationship. When we ask for more direction or we are offered more direction, that is coaching. And, when a definitive statement is made about our current performance, that is evaluation. So, appreciation, coaching or evaluating. This is still in the realm of the giver. As one additional point, we also want to understand that effective feedback is offered with the purpose and intention to improve performance.
But what do we do when we are the receiver. Well, one thing to do is filter the feedback into one of these three buckets. This supports us as the receiver to give the feedback context. There are a few things that occur in the face of feedback that allow us to not receive it. Here are a couple:
1. We do emotional math: when something goes wrong I will contribute it to the situation, you will attribute it to my character that leads to drama.
2. This drives us to “supersize” feedback
3. We have listening filters. We may always be listening for criticism which drives us to see all feedback as significant and as being something personal.
When we get triggered by feedback, here are three things that could be happening: we’ve hit a truth trigger, relationship trigger and/or an identity trigger
• Truth trigger; the feedback isn’t accurate; relationship trigger; you don’t trust the source or identity trigger; the feedback is an attack on your character.
• These are great ways to encapsulate the way we might be interpreting the feedback so remember, this is our interpretation.
• Key point; we are always at choice even in the face of feedback
So, we do have other options to get better at receiving feedback. One of those big options is to accept it, appreciate it and choose to learn and grow from it. We can also adopt a growth mindset. Read more about this from the work of Carolyn Dweck.
But before that even happens, to be a great receiver of feedback, ask yourself these 5 questions:
• 1. Are you available to receive the feedback and in the best emotional space possible?
• 2. Is this the way you do best when receiving it? In other words, if someone sends you an email with feedback in it, is this best for you? Would a conversation be better?
• 3. Are you available to listen to the other person?
• 4. Are you aware of any reactions you may be having during the feedback? Are you remaining open and curious?
• 5. Ask yourself if you are supersizing the feedback and overgeneralizing or maximizing what the other person is saying?
• If you have a “yes” to any of these questions, these are the areas that you can improve on and practice.
So, pick one skill and practice it. Which question is most challenging for you?