Feedback! comes in all types and colors, a very trendy word nowadays in the workplace. In the end, who does not like feedback, right? I have heard gazillion times people saying: “I love feedback” “feedback is my breakfast” or “feedback is always good” and preaching about how feedback is beneficial and how open they are to receive it.
The reality is that knowing about feedback and all its benefits does not make you good at delivering it and most importantly does not mean you know how to handle receiving it. So yes, it is a skill, and you can build it. Despite many types of feedback with different purposes, all of them usually fall into the perception of feedback only being negative, which is not always the case.
So, let’s reiterate the question but this time from another angle. How comfortable do you feel when people give you feedback in general? Without defaulting into saying: ”well, it depends on how the feedback was delivered.” but rather going from a more stoic perspective.
How does it make you feel? Does it make you feel anxious at first? Does it trigger any negative thoughts in you? Does the imposter syndrome show up? Or does it make you feel curious and eager to dive into it? In which position do you feel more comfortable, as a feedback giver or as a feedback receiver? Both sides have their own game. And the challenging part is not to cheer somebody up or receive kudos when things go well (although some folks struggle with this too🙊…) but rather to deliver honest feedback kindly or to receive feedback in an open and eager way.
To me for example, at first, receiving feedback or reading my 360 reviews, it felt like the suspense one experiences while leaving the sauna and pulling the rope of the bucket, waiting for the sudden splash of cold water 💧💧💧 . With time and the necessary work, one just simply gets used to cold water or rather learns how to cope with that particular feeling that I am trying to nail in this text.
On the other hand, giving critical feedback felt just awkward to me, especially with people with whom I get along since I did not want to hurt the person or jeopardize my relationship by being candid. So, while trying to be always nice to my peers I was pretty much doing the opposite, besides neglecting one critical part of my job, confronting my peers with constructive feedback. And as you can imagine, things did not go so well, and I had to learn it the hard way…
Becoming better at receiving feedback
Regardless of the type of feedback, getting feedback is often emotionally challenging, as I tried to express it with my cold-water metaphor. And the key to remaining open is to dissociate the behavior from oneself; in other words, remind yourself, that the feedback is targeting a behavior or a particular action, not your sense of self. The behavior is what is wrong, not you. The more you identify yourself with it, the more it will disturb you.
So: When was the last time you got feedback? Which type of feedback was it? Did you accept it? Did you find something insightful about it? Or was it something that you strongly disagree with?
Disclaimer! Is fine to disagree with the feedback one gets, not all the received feedback comes with the same quality, context, and intention.
Becoming better at giving feedback
As I mentioned, I had to learn to give feedback the hard way because I lacked the tools to deliver it properly, without realizing that in essence, high-quality feedback is about caring for the growth of the person receiving it, and one can be kind and candid.
When was the last time you must act and deliver feedback to somebody either because was your responsibility, or because you were asked to, or simply because you needed to set your boundaries with that person?
Regardless, the fundamental principle is the same, the intention behind your delivery is what will make your feedback effective, which should always come from caring. Of course, is not only intention that is required, but I am not diving into best practices on how to deliver good feedback, still, I can definitely recommend you this book Radical Candor.
The type of feedback you provide will have a different impact on the person receiving it, and the more you grow in your career path, the higher the quality of the feedback you deliver should be. And here, I am saying “should” because each organization has different standards and tolerates different behaviors.
For example, take the following diagram, which pictures the feedback spectrum, from the simplest to the most challenging one to provide ―the one that requires way more effort from the feedback giver. This helps to illustrate where in the feedback spectrum the feedback we deliver often falls.
Which type of feedback do you give more often?
“It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” ― Ralph Waldo
We can’t help others without first beginning with ourselves. Here is the start of any feedback. A challenge to our own self-compassion and self-critic. Not necessarily an easy task, right? But it's our inner dojo, and if we can’t have a certain degree of kindness and candidness with ourselves, chances of being successful in the way we deliver feedback are scarce.
Feedback l: Seeking Recognition
This is the most common feedback we see; it recognizes and intends to reinforce positive behavior, and is focused on highlighting the strengths or accomplishments of the person. It tries to answer the question "What does your peer do well?" with concrete examples. Also, if it’s done too often, it can feel a bit superfluous or deceitful, especially in working cultures where is more important to be polite than honest.
Example: “Amazing work supporting the team while finding the balance of not losing track of your own tasks. Good time management and mentoring, keep it up!”
Feedback ll: Seeking Past Flaws
Here we start with the most common cumbersome part of giving and receiving feedback, and whereas can feel easy to spot the flaws of somebody else, delivery and the intention behind are key factors, failing on these two, can jeopardize the whole relationship.
This feedback intents to bring to the person’s attention a behavior or action that is not matching the expectations or might turn damaging sooner than later if it is not addressed. This type of feedback is quite honest, and on point and aims for a change in an area where the person might or might not be aware; neglecting it, often makes things worse.
Example: “I have noticed that lately in meetings you seem dispersed or absent; for example, when Joe asked you this morning a question and you seemed totally lost. When this happens, your peers feel demotivated and discourage to involve you in topics, which can damage your collaboration. I please need you to be more present in meetings.”
Feedback lll: Seeking Areas of Improvement
This feedback is the one that everybody wants, is the one that brings clarity to your self-doubt or unknowns in way of improvement, and the main difference with the previous ones is that this suggests a new behavior that can make the person improve in a particular area. It could be seen as a follow-up of correcting behavior, but with a suggestion on how to do better. However, sometimes your peers are doing great, with nothing to correct, nor past flaws to spot, and still, you are being asked to answer: What could your peer improve on?
And here, is where another challenge starts; for you to spot some areas of improvement, you need to first be more experienced or have deeper knowledge in a subject, you need to be able to tell what this person is lacking to become better in a particular area. We are blind to spot things that we do not know, those unknown unknowns. Is an explorative task, where the feedback giver, provides some guidance into what could be the next steps to further develop.
Naturally, this type of feedback turns imperative for any senior role in any organization which aims for a better feedback culture that fosters a growth mindset.
Example: “I saw you are doing great progress in the way you communicate your ideas in big groups. What could make you more effective is the usage of visual material in your presentations, such as diagrams or graphs to support your points.”
Feedback lV: Seeking perspective
This feedback is the last one in the spectrum; given its coaching nature and that requires a pre-establish closer relationship with the person, any leader should reach this level.
This feedback aims to inspire and motivate, by rewarding positive behavior and offering a future perspective to act further. It differs from only praising good behavior in its way of actively engaging in the subject, and not letting it rest, always aiming to push towards the personal vision of the receipt. If used right, This kind of feedback can boost confidence and build a sense of purpose in the individual.
Example: “ In the past months you have developed further your technical skills, helped other teams, and delivered on time, simply outstanding! Continue exploring your own leadership, people already validate your expertise, and with passion and dedication no doubt you will become that leader that you envision.”
There are many ways of categorizing feedback, the importance lies in recognizing each type has a purpose, and learning how and when to use these tools effectively, can bring your working culture to the next level.
So back to the original question, Do I really like feedback? Let’s say I learned to like it, it did not come for free in my psychology. I had to rewrite some paradigms about myself and my belief system to allow me to get its benefits and ultimately support others. 🙏🏽
written by Manuel Sanchez, Web Chapter Lead Sputnik