Giving and Receiving feedback

Honesty is a very expensive gift; just don’t expect it from cheap people.

– Warren Buffet

If we are to believe this phrase, giving feedback is a invested and noble act. At our Monday musing session, we decided to explore the true meaning of feedback, when and how it is best given and how receivers of feedback need to respond and act.

Defining Feedback
The act of sharing our perception and perspective of others, good or bad, with them is, by our definition, feedback. Feedback may be delivered in many different formats, both formal and informal. There are many factors that affect the impact feedback has on those it is intended for and whether or not it ‘lands’.

Giving Feedback
While we all favor different approaches of giving feedback (or not giving it at all!), we identified the following critical factors for increasing the propensity for positive reception of feedback.

• Inter-personal trust: In order for the receiver to accept the feedback, an environment of trust must exist. The trust of the givers’ intent in giving this feedback is at the core of this trust. The receiver needs to trust that the feedback is given without prejudice and in the interest of providing insight they can use for their own development, growth or even happiness.

• Awareness: To successfully give feedback, it is useful to understand the context of the receiver both in regard to their motivations, their character and their ambition. This information enables the giver to develop a strong case for change or to support to the individual they give feedback to. Setting up a feedback session that starts with a discovery session to uncover these elements also provides the opportunity to build rapport. A personalized conversation particularly on emotional perspectives makes for a good start to feedback sessions.

• The Setting: To create a productive feedback session, an environment that is noise free, private or uninterrupted and neutral to both parties is most conducive. When giving feedback, avoid barriers to open conversation and status symbols. That may infer inequality.

• The method: The choice of the method to use in giving feedback impacts the reception and understanding by the receiver. While face-to-face feedback may be favored as the most impactful, technology can enable us to mimic it when its not possible. The use of video enabled calls is an example of this.

• Timing: Timely feedback provides the opportunity for the receiver to avoid making the same mistake or to derive motivation from their past success if the feedback was positive. Individuals need to get into a cycle of continuous feedback by seeking feedback form others and giving feedback whenever it is required of them.

• Feedback Structure: We recommend a ‘sandwich’ feedback structure where negative feedback is sandwiched by positive comments on the individuals’ ability to forge forward or by the positive feedback on some of their strengths. It is important to maintain relevance though.

Receiving Feedback
The key issues we identified as getting in the way of receiving and accepting feedback are low self-awareness, self-conceit, individual resilience levels and self-absorption.

Self-Awareness: Understanding oneself and accepting oneself is critical to enable objective receipt of feedback. We identified it as necessary for individuals to invest in self-awareness through available online assessments, seeking feedback from others and self-reflection.

Self-conceit: Relevant to the above, self conceit points to a disproportionate sense of self-importance. These individuals have a hearing barrier and cannot receive feedback effectively.

Resilient personalities: Individuals who have high levels of resilience receive feedback more positively and easily absorb direct feedback and move on. A character of high resilience is marked by not taking things personally, remaining optimistic and believing in ones own ability to bounce back or renew themselves.

Self-absorption: To receive and embrace feedback one must recognize the value that others bring. A self-absorbed individual is self-centered and only concerned about his or her own ambition, emotions and thoughts. They may therefore fail to recognize their impact on others. This awareness is required to receive feedback positively.

Within an organization culture context, we recognize the feedback cycle as a key part of developing a positive culture within the organization. Whether formal or informal, feedback enables growth, facilitates better working relationships through increased trust.

Creating and promoting safe channels for feedback will help to drive a feedback habit among employees as will training employees on factors that affect their ability to give and absorb feedback.

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