How am I supposed to deal with F$%DBACK?
I believe that there are two essential beliefs we must have in order to have open and honest feedback conversations:
- Keep them simple
- Keep them authentic
After my beliefs I follow these rules:
- Be Nice - Remember what our parents told us? "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all". Feedback IS a good and nice thing so long as your purpose is to share. If your purpose to is crush someones soul and to hurt them, then don't open your mouth. Also, take ownership for your emotional wake. What you tell someone, even when it is delivered in the best package possible might still startle them, even hurt or embarrass them. So deliver the message simply, do not drop it on them like a bomb.
- Be Honest - Do not stretch your truth because you want them to "really get it". If they for a moment think that what your saying is made up or manipulative then you're sunk... they have stopped listening. Also, where is your finger print on the issue? If you do own all or a part of the issue or anything that contributed to it you need to own that "I am sorry that I have not had this conversation sooner, by avoiding it I only added to your confusion over ____" or "I have to apologize for ___ I can see that by doing ___, I made this worse for you".
- Don't Give Advice - This is very hard for a lot of people, because most us like to stand on a soapbox and show how experienced we are. Un-fortunately this won't help the person you are sharing your feedback with. They will start to feel that you are showing that you are proving to them how good you are at what they apparently fail at. They need to own their own path and course correction. If they ask you "What should I do?" ask them "what do you think you should do?".
- Say "Thank You" - Providing feedback is one thing, receiving it can be a whole other story. When your conversation is over, genuinely thank them for listening and taking in your feedback. Let them know if they have any questions or if anything needs further discussion to let you know.
I also have a list of practices to avoid. In fact, never ever do any of the following. If you are unclear why, go back to my statement about honesty.
- NO sandwich feedback - Many people were taught a number of years ago that to provide feedback you should always start and end with something positive.... What if you don't actually have anything positive to say about the poor soul you are about to lie to...? It end's up sounding like this "Susan, I adore you and how hard you work here. But, if you are ever late like that again I will make you available to industry. Oh! and I love your shoes!". The Learning and Human Resource industries all agree now that sandwich feedback is not the way to go anymore. In fact, we refer to the feedback sandwich as the "S#$T Sandwich", think about it... Who would ever want to eat a S#$T Sandwich.
- Do not interrupt them - When they are talking and sharing their thoughts, emotions or perspectives do not cave to your inner defence mechanism, be present in the conversation. Have this conversation as if nothing else in the world exists. The same goes for multi tasking. It is beyond rude to be dealing with e-mails, texting, etc. When you do this, it tells the world that you don't really care and that this conversation really is not that important to you.
- "We agree to disagree" - I hear this every so often and it is worse than nails on a chalkboard for me. If you seem to not be making any headway in the conversation just take a time-out. Say something like "I feel this conversation has hit a road block and this is very important to me, lets take a break, sleep on it and continue our conversation tomorrow". Sleep is magical, it is amazing what happens after resting and reflecting on something. I guarantee that both of you will come back into the conversation with a different perspective. If the other person says the above, say "we can't agree because I don't think we understand each others perspective". At the end of the day, either person may not agree with everything said, however there is always a little nugget of something that each person can take away with them.
- Anonymous/E-mail/Text - Anonymous feedback is an evil thing invented to allow people to hide behind a wall and lob a weapon of mass emotional destruction. The one caveat I have for this is as it pertains to safety. Anonymous feedback that is safety related allows people to identify hazards without fear of reprisal and we have to support this. Many workplaces will allow anonymous feedback and it is killing the passion and creativity in people. Anonymous means nameless and faceless, how is that in line with belief number 2 above? At the very least, allow people, and yourself the license to dismiss anonymous feedback especially in cases where they don't understand it and would require clarification or perhaps specific examples in order to make a course correction. When it comes to feedback, if you can't put your name on it then it is most likely not something worth sharing (again, go back to the belief on being nice). E-mail and text feedback? need I say more? Feedback is a conversation, a loop of back and fourth sharing. Body language and tone account for 55% and 38% of understood conversation, you lose that in written form and wild misunderstandings are certain to happen.
What practices to avoid have your name on them? What can you work on? It is my absolute certain belief that the relationships both personal and professional are the sum of the quality and truth in the conversations we are having. What relationships can you improve? What should you be saying and sharing that you are not right now?and how much is that costing you?