We all like feedback when it’s positive. It’s fun to get and easy to give. I can’t underestimate the benefits of affirming people for a job well done. We want to be recognized, especially by the people we admire. It tells us we’re valued. It builds relationship and trust. It’s especially important when the effort we put into a task is big. While it might be nice to notice when someone gets a hair cut, it’s really important to notice when they lose 50 lbs.
Positive feedback is one thing, negative feedback is much more difficult to manage. Its called a lot of things: Constructive criticism, coaching, candid feedback, developmental feedback. No matter what it’s called, we don’t like getting it and for most of us it’s even harder to give. We’re basically conflict avoidant. Part of the problem with dishing out constructive criticism has to do with the way most of us receive it: we explain ourselves or defend our behavior. Sometimes we’re so determined to prove that the coaching is incorrect that we end up killing the messenger. The person trying to help us ends up feeling defeated and consequently is less likely to offer candid feedback in the future. When that happens, we limit our potential for growth.
Feedback, good or bad, is information. It tells us how we look from someone else’s perspective. It doesn’t matter whether or not we agree with it. If we want to be successful, we have to know what kind of impression we’re making. So we have to ask for feedback and then thank the messenger…even when it’s hard to swallow. And, in a perfect world, we should try to get that perspective from several sources.
How you ask for feedback determines the quality of the feedback you’ll receive. If after running a staff meeting you ask a co-worker, “How’d I do?” You’re not going to get very far. Your conflict avoidant peers will assume you want praise. They’ll say, “Great,” or if they’re brave they might offer, “Pretty good, I’m glad it wasn’t me.” Most of us would be content with that much information and move on with the day.
Chicken! If you really want to know how you did be more specific. Try something like, “What two things worked well?” or “What would you have done differently?” or “Tell me something I could have done better.” You have to fight for the feedback you need in order to improve…unless you’re perfect.
What do you think? Do you struggle to give candid feedback? Is it hard for you to listen to it?