“Thanks for the Feedback”

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One of the best ways to learn is from feedback from others but it is useful to get the right feedback from the right people at the right time. 

That’s not to say only as for feedback from those you know will give you a glowing report.  We need to invite those with whom we have had less favourable experiences with. The most useful feedback is from those who work most closely with you; those who can actually observe your behaviour frequently.

A few years ago as part of my Masters I had to do a 360 degree feedback session.  I invited several of my peers to give feedback, and that included someone, senior to me, who I thought I had a difficult relationship with.  I wanted to explore that more and find out whether my perception of our relationship was the same as hers.  To my surprise, she gave me really constructive, glowing feedback and even said that she was in awe of me.  This from someone I thought had it all together and was the most capable person I could imagine. When I explained that I had invited her to participate as I felt that we didn’t have the best working relationship she was totally shocked.  She felt that we got on really well and that as someone who reported in to her on certain tasks, I was the most reliable, capable person within the team.  From that moment on, my relationship with her only go better.  It is important though, that those who participate in giving feedback are encouraged to do so honestly and openly. 

When asking for open, honest feedback we need to be open to the results.  We might not always like what we see.  It can be too easy to become defensive or discount the negative comments.  It is worth noting though about how much value you place on that person’s opinion.  You may have invited them to provide feedback, but are they the person who has most influence, or the person that you really need to get on side?  After some negative feedback I received once, I shared it with a trusted colleague who asked me how much I needed to value that person’s view.  It is after all just one person’s view and should be taken alongside everyone else’s and not be given more credence over the majority view that you get back from everyone.

The whole point of getting the feedback is to learn from it and decide what, if anything needs to be changed for the better and what you need to carry on doing.  Picking out themes will help overcome the tendency to dwell on one comment.  Get the general vibe from all responses rather than stick to one.

Then of course, you need to put this learning into action.  Developing an action plan to help address some of the areas that need more work helps you understand your impact it has on others and what it means for you to become effective. Then plans need to be communicated with others, you might need buy in for your own line manager, or authorisation to attend a course. Monitoring progress and asking for further feedback along the way is also useful so that you and others can see progression.

One of the best books I’ve read on the subject of feedback is called Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.  I read it shortly after a disastrous confrontation which, had I been less self-aware, may have resulted in me walking out.  From it I developed an action plan to feedback to the person I had the confrontation with.  I knew I had to do things differently, but so did they.  The way they had treated and tried to humiliate me in front of others was unacceptable. 

I ended up with a sheet of A4 with three columns:

  • How you made me feel
  • What I’m going to do
  • What you’re going to do

This particular person was very big on feelings; that you can’t change how someone felt about something.  I told her exactly how she made me feel, warts and all.  I admitted that there were things I could have done better and I listed some of those, they also included things like not being taken for granted anymore and not putting up with poor senior leadership.  Then I shared with her a list of things that I thought she ought to do differently.  Again, she was keen on the phrase “if you want a different outcome, you need a different input”, something she tried to apply to other people, just not herself. She was truly shocked.  I think partly because I dared to suggest that she had also been in the wrong, but also I just don’t think she realised the impact that she’d had.

I came out of that situation a much stronger person.  I lost all respect for her as my senior and did what I had to do to get by, but as soon as the opportunity arose, I moved into another area so I did not have to have anything further to do with her. 

Feedback is useful to help identify our Blind Self, the areas that we don’t know about ourselves but others do, and can support a plan to move towards our Open Self, the area that both you and others know about you.


One thought on ““Thanks for the Feedback”

  1. Do you ever receive unsolicited feedback? Do you ever get told something about yourself that you didn’t ask for? How do/did you deal with that?


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