In my last article, I served up 5 tangy steps to receive feedback, arguably one of the hardest things a human being can try to do. Below is a brief summary of the first five steps I developed and a more robust description of my next 5:
- Say Yes. Treat feedback like the gift it is and strive to accept it with grace.
- Grin and bear it. It’s good for you, look like you like it.
- Take it all in. Listen at maximum strength to understand. Take notes to capture it.
- Say, “Thank you!” It’s a gift remember. Play nice.
- Drill it down with questions. Asking, “Tell me more about that?” will diffuse your instinctive reaction to refute it or debate it, which feels relieving but may be self-defeating (if the feedback represents things you really need to hear). Being inquisitive not only helps you adopt an analytical mindset, it also helps you clarify what you are hearing which will allow you to gather more and better information.
- Let it land. If it’s positive, and you don’t think you deserve it, don’t slough it off. I’m bad for this because I feel awkward accepting praise that is not fully warranted My goal is to answer, “Thanks for noticing, you should also tell Joe, he was the lead on this.” I’ve found people don’t know what to do with returned feedback. Make it easy for them by accepting it graciously and redirecting it to others if appropriate. If the feedback is constructive, try not to react defensively and give it the benefit of the doubt that it might have merit.
- Triage it. This happens afterwards, when you have time to reflect on the feedback. I find if you sort it into a few different categories, it will help you scrub the subjectivity from it, which is needed to analyze it logically and rationally. Here are 3 “buckets” that I suggest:
- You bet. This is feedback I agree with, without doubt.
- Needs work. This is the stuff that is more complicated and will need my time and effort to separate the wheat from the chaff.
- No way. These are the items that I feel are untrue or unchangeable or not worth the investment to change.
I don’t try to fill these buckets equally – I don’t strive for a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 split. I find it serves me the best to fill the “Needs work” bucket the most and the “No way” bucket the least. Also, I give myself the freedom to move things from bucket to bucket as time, my progress, and my perspective on these items change.
- Truth it. Here is where I would roll up my sleeves and get to work on the second bucket to find out what is valid. Many ways to do this.
First, I try self-reflection – “Am I really that way?” If you have a video or audio recording of your performance, bite the bullet, press play and try to identify what your feedback giver observed. Next, try to get an objective perspective. Choose a person you trust but avoid inner circle folk who may biased and tell you want you want to hear but not what you need to hear. If you consult your arch-enemy, recognize their information may neither be kind nor truthful and giving your power to someone like that might leave you vulnerable to an emotionally traumatic event. Also, feel free to get a 2nd or 3rd or even 4th opinion if need be, and be aware the evil of confirmation bias.
- Save it. I’ve started writing mine down on a piece of paper and I’ll review it during a goal setting session. I have an idea to have some fun with this and use some visual thinking and slap it into an infographic generator (like visual.ly or infogr.am ), possibly doing something with the bucket analogy above.
- Do something with it. Once you’ve identified what feedback is valid, come up with some corresponding actions. If it’s stuff you do well, develop a system to remind you to keep it up. Or, buy into strengths theory and upgrade stuff your talents to achieve your biggest gains. For “fatal flaw” items that absolutely need improvement, it might mean a professional development course taken, a book to be ordered and read, a coach or mentor to be acquired, or a success team formed.
These are 10 steps for receiving feedback. You likely will have your own and I want to hear them. My goal is to develop these steps into a more compact model that can be easily remembered and applied in real life situations. These two blog posts represent a prototype in the experimental process to develop it. If you have questions, comments, or especially feedback – comment below, tweet me @gsjonuk, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll promise to say thank you with a smile.