Seven years ago, I broke up with my working partner because of one single piece of feedback: “I don’t feel like we are a team here.” He told me that on the last day of the five consecutive workshops we ran together. Ironically, the workshop was aiming to create collaboration and transformation for leaders during the time of organisation restructuring.
We helped create teamwork for leaders but we failed to work as a team.
It was hard for me to understand why he raised this issue on the last day, but did not provide me any feedback along the way.
Later on, I realised that it was me who was also avoiding giving him my feedback.
I tried to convince myself that it was not a big deal, that he would figure things out and that all the issues would be resolved at the end.
Why are we reluctant to give direct feedback?
Delivering feedback is uncomfortable, especially when we often look at feedback as a negative response. What if he gets super defensive and starts blaming me? What if she gets upset? What if she cries? What if he blames it all back on me?
Most often, we focus about the other person’s reaction rather than perceiving feedback as a tool to connect and expand our understanding of one another.
Even though it seems like a cliche, I believe that feedback is a gift.
Constructive feedback is an important ingredient for personal and professional development.
But let’s face it, sometimes feedback can hurt.
So, how can we take the sting out of feedback, and embrace it as a path to achieve our personal full potential?
1. Start from mindset: Start from the mindset that feedback, however painful, has one purpose: to help the individual grow in their selfreflection and awareness. We often look at feedback as something negative. However, feedback, properly given and received, may also be defined as an opportunity to expand one’s understanding and can be used as a tool for achieving positive results. Properly given, this feedback becomes constructive.
We receive feedback daily and from different sources. If we can understand it and use it, this feedback can empower us to communicate more openly and improve our performance in many areas.
2. Focus on observed behaviour and the effect of the behaviour you want to direct: Provide details for examples of behaviours by focusing on what the person did and hold your assumptions or interpretations you made from your viewpoint. You would need to identify examples to support the feedback you want to give and organise your thoughts so that you were able to present your feedback coherently.
3. Create space for an opportunity to respond: The truth is, we cannot change anyone without their consent. The decision rests upon them in the end. What we should realise is that constructive feedback has two interactors – one giver and one receiver. It is not just something we must “take”, but something we can respond to and interact with.
4. Direct towards the future: The purpose of feedback is not to attach to the past, rather it is to plan for the future. Although feedback begins with a consideration of past or current behaviour, it certainly does not end there. Useful feedback uses past actions as a springboard to develop an effective plan for future actions.
5. Be supportive: Useful feedback is given in a spirit of supportiveness. Feedback should never be given in a way that belittles the recipient or makes others look good at someone else’s expense.
Feedback is considered one of the most powerful influences to learning and achievement, but the impact can be either positive or negative.
Bill Gates was once quoted as saying: “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Feedback does not have to be painful. When feedback is healthy, you will find that it becomes an opportunity to initiate problem solving rather than dreaded encounters.