Give and take it – feedback!

Okay, so you asked the question, are you ready for the answer?  Feedback is a way of learning more about our effect on others, and our behaviour and performance as a leader and a team member.  It should be embraced, valued and always listened to.

Done well, it is constructive.  It supports our self-awareness, offers new ways of thinking, and encourages or shows us the way to continuous self-improvement.  So often, we focus on our skills in giving feedback.  But we need to pay equal attention to how we are receiving it as well.  Negative feedback isn’t useful, instead constructive feedback should be – but it needs to be both well-given and well-received.

Giving:  Starting and ending with the positive is a pretty well-known principle of feedback; the praise sandwich. Everyone needs encouragement, on a fairly constant basis.  Starting in this way opens the receiver’s receptiveness to listen.  Being specific is the next challenge.  Avoiding general comments helps focus precisely on the skills that need to be considered.  Saying ‘you were wonderful’ is nice but it doesn’t have the same punch as ‘you solved that complaint quickly, positively, and in a helpful way’.  Now focus on what could change and offer alternatives ‘it would help the customer if you gave eye contact and spoke more slowly’.  Use careful language choices, express your feelings and speak for yourself, for example ‘your tone of voice made me feel upset’, is much better than ‘you were rude’.  The receiver is wanting your carefully considered opinion and view point.  After which, they have a choice to use the information they have received, or not.

Taking:  What is absolutely vital is you are ready to listen, without interrupting and jumping to your own defence.  Allow people to finish, to complete sentences, hold the silences. It can be so easy to quickly butt-in, reject it, qualify it, and argue your case instead.  The person feeding back is giving their views and opinions, think about where they are coming from.  They are entitled to their view, they are committed to it.  And you are entitled to your view and to disagree, but only if you listen and consider it first.  Be clear about the message received.  Use paraphrasing techniques or repeat what has been said, to check you have understood correctly.  Get a balanced view by asking others what they think about your feedback, what is their feedback?  It’s no surprise that everyone doesn’t agree or have the same views.  And is there some feedback you aren’t getting?  If so, ask for it!  And finally, decide what you will do as a result of the feedback.  Otherwise, it is a wasted opportunity.  Use it to continuously grow and develop, to lead and to be a great team member.

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