Hey, can I give you some feedback?
“So I just want to start by saying….”
There isn’t a soul out there who doesn’t initially have a visceral response to that unsolicited question, before taking a breath, swallowing your pride, and responding with the falsely enthusiastic statement of, “Yes of course, I always love feedback!”
Method A: Unsolicited Feedback
This question is probably the single most commonly used method of sharing feedback.
The issue here is not the act of exchanging feedback. Just because you cringe whenever you hear that question, does not mean you don’t want to learn how you could improve whatever it is you’re receiving feedback on.
No, the issue here is that asking someone if you can give them some feedback is basically code for: “Hey, can I tell you how I think you could have done this better?” And that question, immediately puts you on the defensive end of things, because on some level, it’s internalized as “Hey, can I tell you how I think you could be better?” And that’s always a tough pill to swallow.
When you are put on the defensive, you are not operating from a place of strength. And when you’re not operating from a place of strength, it’s hard to fully appreciate potentially legitimate things that could be improved upon.
When you receive feedback, you want to be sure you are in a place where you can walk away with valuable insights and not just half-assed gratitude tinged with mild resentment and verbalized as something that resembles “Thank you for sharing that with me. I will definitely keep it in mind in the future.”
That said, aside from the fact that this feedback is provided in a way that puts you on the defensive, it is at least usually given in a timely manner and shared face-to-face. Which is something you can’t say about the next two methods I will walk you through.
Method B: Dreaded Feedback
One way to easily get a sense of how much a meeting is dreaded is to simply consider how many times it has been postponed and rescheduled. Few meetings are postponed and rescheduled as commonly as the Annual Performance Review.
While the previously mentioned method of unsolicited feedback only provokes anxiety on one end of the conversation, the annual performance review often tends to inspire a great deal of anxiety for both parties involved.
The anxiety swells on the part of the manager usually because they have to share constructive criticism in a format that isn’t conducive to constructive criticism because it only happens once a year.
And the employee who is being reviewed is wrought with anxiety because they want to use this opportunity to demonstrate why they’ve earned a raise, and/or promotion, not to hear about the things they could improve upon that might not have even been shared with them until this meeting.
So yet again, the person receiving the feedback is put on the defensive and no longer operating from a place of strength. And operating from a place of strength is crucial because you want to feel good about something before you try it. And to feel good about it, you need to be willing to embrace it.
Method C: Anonymous Criticism
This method has been popularized by the advent of SaaS platforms with anonymous feedback features and the anonymous format for the 360 Review process.
The issue here is pretty obvious. Having anonymous feedback forums at your company is essentially acknowledging that you need to protect the individuals providing the feedback so that they feel like they can speak freely, without any fear of retribution. And to follow that up, you’re then reinforcing an environment of distrust for the person receiving the feedback because they don’t know who it’s coming from.
And this might be a shocker, but when you don’t know who is attacking you, you are undoubtedly put on the defensive once more.
The exception to this rule is with a platform like Glassdoor. Here is an instance where I do believe anonymity is necessary in the feedback process and rarely detrimental to the team because it’s a combination of current and former employees speaking to top leadership and potential new hires. Some leaders of companies really can’t be trusted to manage negative feedback in a healthy way. And if that’s the case, potential new employees should know what they could be walking into.
You might be thinking to yourself, well our company really needs anonymous feedback forums because our leadership doesn’t respond to negative feedback and in a constructive way at all. And my response to that is this:
If your leadership can’t acknowledge shortcomings or areas of opportunity to improve their leadership style and the organization, then either they won’t last, or the organization won’t. If you are someone who is passionate about their work and wants to make an impact, I suggest you seek out opportunities with leaders who truly value personal and professional growth. Things like this always trickle down from the top.
This goes without saying, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway. People tend to do their best work when they are a part of a team whom they respect and trust. This means creating a safe environment for constructive criticism to be shared in a timely, direct, and thoughtful manner… regardless of who’s on the receiving end of it.
But that only comes with practice and having team leaders who model this behavior before asking it of their team. Which brings us to the solution you’ve been waiting for.
Method D: Habitually Solicited & Self-Provided Feedback
This last method is of course what I propose to be the best solution for sharing and receiving feedback. It involves two elements.
Ask for feedback…. and ask often.
Give yourself feedback… and do it often.
Asking for Feedback
When you make a habit of asking people for feedback this tips the scales in your favor. One — you’re asking, so you’re not on the defensive because you’re emotionally prepared and willing to learn and grow. Two — it shows that you’re always willing to listen to other people’s thoughts and perspectives and improve things on your end when possible. Three — making a habit of asking for feedback normalizes it so that it becomes a part of your team’s culture and general way of doing things, as opposed to something that rarely occurs and causes a lot of apprehensions.
Giving Yourself Feedback
When you take the time to reflect on what you’ve successfully accomplished and what lessons you’ve learned, you are exercising your self-awareness muscles. The more often you exercise these muscles, the stronger you become. And when this process is transformed from a personal context to a team setting where everyone is sharing their own reflections with each other on a regular basis, your work environment becomes rich with personal and professional growth. Then it’s only a matter of time before that translates to revenue growth.
A resource like the Everyday Visionary planner could be the solution perfect for your teams. This unsuspectingly relevant product is a personal productivity tool that provides a simple yet powerfully effective format for your employees to develop their self-awareness by capturing and looking back on their accomplishments and lessons learned on a weekly basis.