“It’s just business, nothing personal!”
How many times have you heard that before? I hate that expression. Everything is personal, especially feedback. We live in a 24X7 social world where connections are everywhere, you can’t hide from anything, and our relationships operate like social electricity. When we give or get feedback, we naturally stir up our emotions and can energize or de-energize ourselves and others.
This week I found myself living in the world of feedback. It started early sharing a personal development plan with one of my proud CEO clients after conducting interviews with his board and senior team. Then in the middle of the week another client gave me unexpected direct feedback about how one of our solutions did not hit the mark. Later that day an executive from another company needed solace and advice, but I chose to hold back the feedback because I felt he wasn’t ready to hear it. Friday was the day I had to give some tough feedback to one of my staff. It wasn’t until the weekend that I realized how much introspection, emotional energy, and humanity I had expended without even realizing it.
Feedback is a gift. For the giver and the receiver. But it has to be motivated for the right reasons. And managed toward the right outcomes. Great feedback is about choosing authenticity over avoidance, intimacy over detachment, and courage over complicity. Its all about ego. When giving feedback we have to make sure its in service of the other person and the organization, not ourselves. When getting feedback, we have to receive it with generosity and see it as an opportunity to learn. Here are a few observations I’ve learned from giving and getting a lot over the years.
GIVING FEEDBACK – Entering someone’s self-image and self-esteem is tricky business. Find the right time for both of you. There are three types of feedback — evaluating (where you stand); appreciating (where you shine); and coaching (where you need to improve). Be clear about your intentions and the outcomes you desire. Don’t bury the lead; be specific about your observations and desired behavior; and monitor the emotions in the moment. Some people want it direct; others want it gentle. Remember: the goal is to help someone walk out of the conversation a little bigger and a little better than you found them.
GETTING FEEDBACK – Imagine a train carrying feedback to your cognitive and emotional brain. Your intellectual mind can easily stop the train in its tracks before its destination by dismissing or deflecting the feedback. Try to avoid that if at all possible. Gifts come in mysterious ways. The emotional mind can also get hijacked by feeling defensive, resentful, hurt, or embarrassed. Try not to personalize the feedback. Catch it like a spear if it hurts or receive it like a hug if it’s good. Welcome the opportunity to learn and understand yourself better.
Life is one big feedback loop. The more often you participate in the dialogue the more conscious you will be in the world.