Executive coach and author Marshall Goldsmith wrote, “Feedback is a gift that only other can give.” So, if feedback is a gift, why do so many of us struggle with giving and receiving it?
Power is the culprit for much of the trouble we have giving and receiving feedback. Our motive may be to control people if we give feedback to someone. And our reluctance to accepting feedback is probably a resistance to change.
Before handing out feedback, it can be helpful to clarify the reason for it. Below are the five most common types of feedback and suggestions for giving each type.
Evaluation Feedback: Evaluation Feedback is the most common that you will find in the workplace.But is also the kind that doesn’t help very much. Evaluation feedback always happens at the end. When the performance year is over. The end of the week-long class. Once a project has been completed. True, we all need to be willing to rate ourselves, and the evaluation feedback will improve our performance next time. But why not give and get feedback when we can learn from it real time?
Real-Time Performance Feedback: This type of feedback generally comes from a boss or someone whose own success depends on you. While it may be couched as an observation or something for you to think about, when someone shares performance feedback, they intend for you to change your behavior.
When you feel that you are receiving performance feedback from someone, it is helpful to be direct and clear. Try asking, “what exactly would you like me to stop or start doing?” Once you’ve gotten the feedback, make the change!
Fine-Tuning: Fine-tuning feedback generally comes from people who are satisfied with the overall job you are doing, but see some areas you could tweak to get even better. One of the best examples I can give of fine-tuning feedback came from someone who participated in a course I gave. She told me she enjoyed my course and then asked if she could share some feedback. She shared that when I nodded my head while listening to people in the audience, it made her feel as though I was rushing. WOW! I was blown away because I had no idea that this behavior had a negative effect on my audience.
Fine-tuning feedback is most effective when you share the impact a behavior has on you or on other people. The giver is not necessarily trying to control or change you. They share how a behavior impacts them, then gives the other person a chance to change, or not change.
Feed-Forward: Goldsmith came up with this one years ago. It involves making suggestions before, rather than waiting for them to fail at something and giving negative feedback later. Years ago my husband was about to present to his company’s executive leadership team for the first time. His boss gave him great feed-forward about how to dress, when to speak, how much detail to go into, etc.
Slap Upside the Head: Two years ago, a colleague who is also a great friend sat me down and said, “You are making yourself and others miserable. What’s going on?”
This is the kind of feedback that only great friends can give. It consists of observations about you, that people share with you because they care about you. In his book, Who’s Got Your Back, Keith Ferrazzi gives some great examples of this feedback along with the assertion that we all desperately need people in our lives who care enough to give it.
Slap upside the head feedback is not given with the intent of controlling or even changing for the sake of the person giving the feedback. The feedback is given because they understand your personal goals and see how your behavior is keeping you from reaching those goals.
Those giving feedback: Think through before giving feedback what the most appropriate form would be to achieve the intention you have for it.Keep in mind that unless you are in a position of authority, it is not your place to give evaluation feedback. You can lead a horse to water . . .
Those on the receiving end of feedback: remember that we are all unaware of how we come across at times, and feedback is the way we learn about these areas and have the opportunity to correct them. View the feedback as a gift, even if you decide you don’t agree with it. If it’s evaluation or performance feedback, you have a chance to change in order to do better in the eyes of others. If it’s fine-tuning or slap upside the head feedback, you have the choice to change or not.
Wendy Mack is a consultant, speaker, and change catalyst who specializes in helping leaders mobilize energy for change, For more articles and resources on leading and communicating change visit: www.WendyMack.com.