The concept of feedback is something that comes up often in our team building and corporate training programs, and nine time out of ten, participants say that they want their feedback one way — straight up.
Don’t beat around the bush, use metaphors, or hem and haw, just give it to me straight, they say. Fire it off — I can take it.
But what people say and what people want – or are ready to handle – are often quite different. I mean, if I were to write myself as a character in a crime novel, I’d be the kind of guy who walked into a bar and ordered my bourbon straight-up. No rocks. No fruit twist. Just straight up. Why? Because it sounds good. Makes me feel tough.
But the truth of the matter is I’d be much happier with a Mai Tai sporting an umbrella the size of a sombrero — I just don’t want to tell people that fact.
Feedback is often the same way. We get so excited about the prospect of feedback after a training that sometimes we forget that it’s something we should ease into instead of barreling ahead. We need to learn to give feedback effectively.
First and foremost, we need to work on associating the word “feedback” in the workplace with both the positive and the negative (or corrective). The reason we panic a little inside when we hear feedback is because it’s so often used in a negative light. Use the word feedback when giving praise as well to help break the negativity-correlation.
Likewise, don’t give a boatload of corrective feedback all at once. This can be overwhelming and cause even the most stoic among us to get defensive. Pick one or two main items to give feedback on and stick to those items. Also, be sure to focus on the behavior or particular item that you want to address, not the person. So don’t tell someone they need to work on their writing skills because of one poorly written report; tell the person his last report wasn’t quite up to par. This helps assure that it doesn’t feel like you’re simply launching an attack.
When you’re the recipient, don’t forget to breath. Try your best to truly listen to the feedback, taking to heart what resonates with you, and while not internalizing the feedback or taking it personally. Think about what you’re gaining through the conversation.
By making feedback more regular and inclusive of both the good and the not-so-good, we make it easier to take, something we can use to learn and grow. We also make it a two-way street. This way we don’t have to take it “straight-up”, but rather with empathy, understanding and with purpose…and maybe even a little umbrella.
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