Thanks for the Feedback

“Can I give you some feedback?”

Rarely do we meet an offer like this with eagerness, curiosity or excitement. Our reaction might be more aligned with concern, skepticism or even fear.

However, feedback is essential in all aspects of our lives. We need others to shine a light on our blind spots so we can grow and develop, just as much as we need to be open to learning and improving.

Not all feedback is difficult. Your boss might mention that they can see the improvements you’ve been making. Your direct report might praise your empathy and listening skills. Your spouse might tell you the new twist on your meatball recipe is working. Most of us do just fine with that kind of input.

But it’s the tough stuff that takes center-stage when it comes to feedback. The observations that deflate us, that leave us worried or anxious, that feel like an attack on our character or our abilities.

In these situations, it’s easy to blame the messenger—but it’s on us to build up our toolkit for how we receive feedback. That’s what makes it constructive.

So, how do we deal with the tension of wanting to learn and grow, while protecting our own emotions in the process? How do we take in this information and make it useful and relevant?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Go get it
Actively seek feedback from those you trust. Have a specific, go-to question like, “What’s one thing I can do to make your work/life easier?” or “What’s one thing I can start (or stop) doing?”

Remember, this person might not be fully prepared to answer. Explain why you want the feedback, then give them time to think and respond when ready.

2. Cultivate a growth mindset
Studies show, those who see their identity as ever-evolving typically handle feedback more fruitfully.

Cultivate a growth mindset by embracing your areas of improvement and using feedback to enhance them.

3. Stop, collaborate and listen
Resist the need to respond or retort. Listening, asking questions and inviting an open dialogue does not mean you agree with the feedback. It simply provides a route to understanding.

Start by restating the feedback, “What I’m hearing is that you think I can be too aggressive in our client sales meetings. Is that right?” Then you can clarify it from there.

4. Find the nugget of truth
Early in my role at Decker, my boss shared some negative feedback from a colleague. She admitted that it felt a little off, but it was still important to explore even if we weren’t sure where it was coming from.

Make an effort to take feedback that might feel misplaced and look for the root of what might be behind it. You don’t have to agree with the feedback, but there’s usually some nugget of truth in there. It’s worth putting in the work to uncover.

5. Take action (and credit)
Once you find the truth (or truths), don’t just sit around on them. Figure out how you can put that new knowledge into practice.

Tell others what you’re working on and implementing as well. Some things take time, and teamwork to shift. Bring others in on the journey.

By reframing feedback as an opportunity, rather than an obligation or impediment, we can start to use the information we receive as a catalyst for growth. Start trying out the tips above and see where it takes you.

P.S. Plenty of feedback was given in the writing of this blog post.


Feedback That Others Can (Actually) Use

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A. Clark A few months ago, as Decker was wrapping up a series of programs with a large pharmaceutical company, an L&D leader surprised us with his takeaway, stating, “This program made … Continue reading

Iron Sharpens Iron

News flash! Ignorance is not bliss. It’s amazing how many companies, organizations and teams there are these days that don’t give each other feedback. Feedback is critical to being a better communicator. Too often, leaders don’t take the time to ask for feedback and they never get better. But iron … Continue reading

The 5 White Lies about Communication

All too often, business communication sucks. Why? We’re not willing to look ourselves in the mirror when we’re not cutting it. We tell ourselves little white lies to make us feel like, “Hey, it’s not so bad.” But if you really want to be a better communicator, then it’s time … Continue reading

Things that Need to Be Said

“Oh, did you get your hair cut?” I say this all the time. In my mind, it’s clear as day that I’ve just given a compliment. But to the person listening, it leaves a lot of doubt and lingering questions. Does he like it? Does it look good? Did I … Continue reading

Are You A Leader We Can Bank On?

“Focus on the jockey as much as the horse. Or, if racing eludes you, bet on the head coach…would you feel confident investing your hard-earned money on a legal bet this weekend on a team in the NFL without researching or knowing the history of the coach of that team?” – … Continue reading

Get out of your comfort zone!

What makes being a road warrior so rewarding? Being unexpectedly inspired. Week after week as a Program Leader for Decker, I’m traveling to train clients of vastly different industries. It’s fascinating to train such a variety, from engineers and marketing gurus to sales sharks and executives because oftentimes, core communication … Continue reading

Are your communication skills Giants playoff worthy?

There is serious Giants fever in San Francisco. The sidewalks are streaming with fans clad in orange and black. Co-workers are screaming game updates over cubes (actually as I sit on BART, some guy just yelled, “the Giants are up!” (Game 3 vs. the Phillies began at 1:05pm today). There’s even a … Continue reading

Disguised Decay

“Status quo is disguised decay.” -Pete Wilkinson The truth is, status quo is a facade. You’re either improving or decaying. Some have put it that you are either growing or you’re dying. True. There is no in between. What’s your goal as a communicator? To improve specific behavioral skills? To … Continue reading

Feedback in Threes: Keepers, Improvements (& video)

To criticize used to mean “to give counsel.” Now it too often means to tear down. In the age of instant communicating, we need to pause and think about what true “criticism” really means – feedback. Without question, praise is the most powerful motivator. I was amazed at the profound … Continue reading