Do You Experience FEEDBACK FEAR?

We coach, develop and work alongside leaders and teams to shift ideas on leadership and provide the skills and tools needed to grow teams.

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Author: Phil Hartwick
First Published: 2021

If you dread these words… ‘Can I give you some feedback?’ you are perfectly normal not super sensitive. Most of us are at least somewhat fearful of getting feedback.

Why? It is often a window into how other people see us, our performance or our behaviour. And feedback is often presented poorly, even with the best of intentions, and our history with this bring emotions to the surface for us quickly.

What we fear is when feedback is about how we have behaved (read badly), or we where have had a negative impact on others, or how we have affected what others think of us.

We are all not the same, and yes some of us are more sensitive than others, and we all have specific triggers that we are easily threatened by. You may want to watch this video about factors that impact how we receive feedback.

Feedback is how we get better…

But we know we need feedback. Studies show we want the type of feedback that helps us to perform better.

And when people are asked what type of feedback they want, they often say things like they want feedback to be fair, balanced – in a way that also acknowledges what is good, that allows us to build on strengths, that is well intended and future focused.

So how do we get more comfortable receiving feedback?

Well perhaps not surprisingly, we need to get into the practice of receiving. And we suggest this is what will make this easier:

Don’t wait to be given feedback – ask for it.

Asking for feedback puts you in control.

It means you can ask for what you want the feedback on, when you receive it and even how it is delivered. And the more you do this the easier it gets. Ask for feedback from people you respect and trust.

Try asking for feedback…

1. on something specific – specify what you want feedback on.

Some examples include:  a piece of work – say a paper or a presentation. Or on how you can improve a relationship with a colleague. Or how you can communicate more clearly.

2. on something that you will do again – or that you can apply lessons from to future activities.  There is no point in getting feedback that is a one off and you won’t be able to redo.

3. on one aspect you have done particularly well – don’t be bashful to ask for something that others think you did particularly well. We sometimes think we know what we did well, but what others see can be very different. Knowing what your strengths are, in the eyes of others, will help you perform better.

4. one suggestion as to what would make the biggest improvement – emphasise that you only want one recommendation not three or four so that you can focus on what matters most. What we want to control is preventing someone who is well intentioned, telling you everything they can think of that you could improve. This generally backfires, as it can hurt confidence and seems unfair.

So what does asking for it sound like?

Here are some examples, but don’t hesitate to change the words to make it comfortable for yourself…

“Hey Mani, can I ask for some feedback on the presentation I gave yesterday?  I would be really grateful if you could think about one thing that you thought I did really well,  and one specific suggestion that you think would my presentations better in the future.”

“Kia ora Jess. I would like to get some feedback from you on how I support you in your role. Can I ask that you think about and tell me something that you think really works for you that you want me to keep doing, and also one suggestion you would like me to do differently or start doing? We can cover this in our one on one check-in this afternoon”

“Tessa, have you got a couple of minutes later this afternoon to give me some feedback or more specifically ‘feed-forward’? I wonder what you feel about the report I provided to you last week. What I would really like to hear is one thing that you thought was particularly good that should keep doing, and one specific recommendation for future papers.”

So get started.

Ask for frequent feedback and make the way you ask more useful for your own improvement, and make it easier to receive.

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