Receiving Feedback

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Recieving FeedbackFor many the thoughts of receiving feedback can be daunting, yet for others it’s seen as a wonderful opportunity. Many perhaps reading this piece, would most likely put themselves in the former category because, after all, it is very judgmental and can point to shortcomings. In response to that, yes this is true but the key to feedback (and its effectiveness) is to have the receiver take control of the process and use the information to their benefit. After all, if you choose to feel judged or insecure about feedback, you are probably feeling the same way about other things in your life.

So how can we reframe this so that the recipients of feedback actually take charge. The key is to hone in on its potential benefits and Stone and Heen, in their HBS article “Thanks for the Feedback”, point to three key positives.

  • Take charge of your Life Long Learning – see this feedback as a blessing and a real opportunity for you to acquire new skills and information, that ultimately allow you to grow.
  • Improve Your relationships – if you can take feedback positively, people will see you as being open and what somebody says actually matters. This can only serve to improve how you interact with everybody.
  • Reduce Stress and Anxiety – sometimes feedback can be tough, but if you can build up the resilience to accept as just that, and not personal, it can make you feel a lot more composed and relaxed.

In general, getting feedback can be very helpful. What is important to optimizing this is to ensure that both the provider and receiver seize the opportunity for what it is truly intended. So notwithstanding what was presented above, there is also an obligation to the feedback provider to do so in an appropriate manner. Some of the keys to this are:

Honesty – be candid in your feedback
Timing – don’t wait for something to go wrong to speak up
Frequency – do it often and let it become normal
De-personalize – be strong on the issue and kind with the person

When all is said and done, “true feedback” is an opportunity for somebody to improve. If that can be instilled as the pure purpose both for the provider and receiver, and become a seamless process that just happens as a natural course of events. However, if you are one of those who struggles with being that recipient, remember this is very much about how you choose to view it, so take control and get the benefit!

Handling a Difficult Boss

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Quite often, when dealing with a difficult boss, the tendency is to blame him or her. However, in any relationship there are at least two people involved and therefore with that comes an equal responsibility. But, how you might ask, can you influence the behavior when he/she are in control? Yes, they may be able to pull rank on you in terms of decisions, but there are things within your control that you can do about it.Boss Giving Direction

  • Walk in their shoes – this is often regarded as empathy and when we take time and truly look at people’s behavior from their perspective, it might help to understand better why they show up as they do. It may not be excusable, but if it goes somewhere toward providing a justification, that can be a major first step in terms of how you process what is actually happening. For example, if you feel you are being ignored, but then realize that your boss is under extreme pressures (that could be work based or even personal), then you are more inclined to understand and help explain what might be happening as a result.
  • It’s not always about you – bosses have multiple agendas and are dealing with complex issues all the time. They can be easily distracted or side tracked which can mean less time for you. But you are not the problem (though you might perceive it that way); it’s all these other things they are dealing with and therefore try to avoid taking things personally.
  • Seek Advice from Others – perhaps what you are doing might be pressing your boss’s buttons (i.e. his personal dislikes). For example, if he/she values somebody who is direct and to the point and you have a habit of being long winded in your responses, he/she might avoid you unless it’s something critical. Your peers might be able to provide a ‘heads up” in terms of how best to interact with your boss, that you could work on adapting to.
  • Speak with your boss – at the appropriate moment discuss with your boss how you might make some improvements, as distinct from fixing shortcomings. This could happen in a casual setting (e.g. while traveling) or you could ask for some time to formally sit down. The key is to avoid any defensiveness and make it about positives and opportunities.

So, if you are feeling a little like this and somewhat helpless, take control and do something about it. Most bosses and even the most difficult ones, are inherently good people. They are human as well and have their own challenges, so that if you can find a way to make their lives that bit easier, it’s pretty well guaranteed that this will be reciprocated. In the end of the day, you always reserve the final option, and that is to find another job. Either way, you are the person in control.

Performance v’s Feedback

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timeFor those working in supervisory or management positions, the reminder of conducting Performance Reviews is most always met with, “oh, do we have to?” Similarly for the person on the other end of this process, there is an equal level of trepidation. Why has a fundamental form of feedback lost its intended purpose and become relegated to the lower echelons on one’s To Do List.

There are a number of factors contributing to its current status. One has to do with the frequency in that it has become this annual event; surely if it was important, it would happen more often. Secondly, it is viewed as an administrative activity and, for some unknown reason, important to have in the individual’s file. The third is because HR needs it done and while it might hold relevance to them, its value to those performing it has become lost. Finally, all too often it is linked to pay, and performance can be quickly forgotten in the discussion if there is some dissatisfaction with pay. After all whoever feels like they are being paid enough?

This discussion is quite ironic because everything done in business is about optimizing performance; whether it’s higher sales, new product introductions or improved operational efficiencies. People however are not quite as tangible and unique talents and qualities often make it difficult to assess their contribution. Notwithstanding, there can be no denying that employees need to receive feedback relative to their performance. In order to make this process more effective and embraced by all, the following might help.

  • Performance should be reviewed on an ongoing basis. If something really good or bad happens, let the person know there and then and, if appropriate, let their file reflect it.
  • “Good” is something to build on and “Bad” is an opportunity to learn from – professional development and coaching is therefore key to managing and enhancing performance
  • Ensure the above is consistently happening throughout the organization. It can never be the responsibility of HR to ensure people performance is managed; that makes no sense. Equally it cannot be the remit of selective members of management; it needs to be a cultural expectation.
  • While pay and performance are intrinsically linked, they should not be part of the same conversation. Per 1 above, performance is an ongoing discussion, pay should be annual.

Performance and feedback are intrinsically linked. By doing it often and adapting accordingly, the performance trajectory can only be upwards and that’s all that matters.


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feedbackProviding feedback typically brings with it a certain level of negativity and, for the intended recipient, considerable anxiety. This is such a shame, as feedback provided in the proper manner can be the source of valuable information and significant potential for improvement. Perhaps its origin can be sourced back to our childhood when feedback was provided as a means of protection and therefore was typically preceded by the word “don’t”. The bottom line is that feedback can either help to build on something you are doing well or identify opportunities for improvement; either ways it can be progressive.

Feedback typically comes in two forms; it is either given (offered) or it can be asked for. The Johari Window is a very effective tool relative to understanding this and at its core is the fact that, in the absence of feedback, we can have many blind spots. These might be habits, mannerisms, behaviors, performance expectations, etc, but we are largely unaware of how others are perceiving them and therefore the consequence. However once you do become aware, you have the opportunity to use this information to make the appropriate adjustments to make things better.

Whatever the circumstances, effective feedback should always be provided in a meaningful and positive manner and here are some of the keys for doing this well.

  • Be Timely – procrastination does not work very well with feedback. It is best to offer it when whatever has occurred is still fresh and affords the recipient the opportunity to learn from it promptly.
  • Be Honest – don’t try to sugar coat and tell half the story, but rather offer the feedback specifically and from an unbiased perspective.
  • Be Helpful – do this from a place of wanting to help rather than discipline. This can be done by using positive language and offering your support in helping their progress.
  • Be Regular – use feedback as a constant and ongoing means of natural communication rather than on an exceptional basis.
  • Be Non-Judgmental – try to approach from the point of view that you are not rating somebody as good or bad, but just making them aware of a perception that exists.

When giving feedback, try to be mindful of the bigger picture. Assess what other factors could be present and are having a bearing on whatever is being communicated. Ultimately, whether you are a parent, leader or coach, the intention should always be to make the situation better for the receiver and those directly impacted.