Tag Archives: workplace communication

How To Understand Feedback And Use It Effectively

Executive coach and author Marshall Goldsmith wrote, “Feedback is a gift that only other can give.”  If that is so, why do so many people have trouble giving and receiving feedback?
Power is the culprit for much of the trouble we have giving and receiving feedback. When we give feedback we may really be trying to control people. Our resistance to receiving feedback is possibly a resistance to change. 

It can be very useful to clarify the reason for giving feedback before doling it out.  Here are five different types of feedback and suggestions for each. 

Evaluation Feedback: Evaluation Feedback is the most common that you will find in the workplace.It’s also the least helpful. The timeframe at which evaluation feedback comes is always at the end. The end of the performance year. After a week-long class is over. The end of a project.  True, we all need to be willing to rate ourselves, and the evaluation feedback will improve our performance next time.  But why not give and get feedback when we can learn from it real time?

Real-Time Performance Feedback: This type of feedback is usually given by someone whose success depends on you; for example your boss.  While it may be couched as an observation or something for you to think about, when someone shares performance feedback, they intend for you to change your behavior.

It is helpful to get clarifying information when you think that you are receiving performance feedback.  Try asking, “what exactly would you like me to stop or start doing?” Once you’ve gotten the feedback, make the change!

Fine-Tuning: Fine-tuning feedback generally comes from people who are satisfied with the overall job you are doing, but see some areas you could tweak to get even better. One of the best examples of fine-tuning feedback I ever received was from a course participant.  She told me she enjoyed my course and then asked if she could share some feedback.  She shared that when I nodded my head while listening to people in the audience, it made her feel as though I was rushing.  WOW!  This blew me away because I had no idea that my behavior was having this negative impact.

The key to giving fine-tuning feedback is to share the impact a behavior has on you or others.  The giver is not necessarily trying to control or change you. The person receiving the feedback has the chance to decide whether to change or not change, the person giving the feedback is merely sharing how they are impacted.

Feed-Forward: Goldsmith came up with this one years ago. It means giving someone suggestions in advance about how to behave rather than waiting for them to fail and beating them up afterward. For example, my husband had a presentation to give to the executive leadership committee at work, which was the first time he ever did anything like that.  His boss gave him great feed-forward about how to dress, when to speak, how much detail to go into, etc.

Slap Upside the Head: Two years ago, a colleague who is also a great friend sat me down and said, “You are making yourself and others miserable.  What’s going on?”

Only very good friends can give slap upside the head feedback.  It involves personal feedback that people share out of concern and caring. In his book, Who’s Got Your Back, Keith Ferrazzi gives some great examples of this feedback along with the assertion that we all desperately need people in our lives who care enough to give it.

A person giving slap upside the head feedback isn’t giving it with the intent of controlling you or even to change you because it matters to the person giving the feedback. The feedback is given because they understand your personal goals and see how your behavior is keeping you from reaching those goals.
Summary
If you are giving feedback:  think through what you want to achieve and give feedback that is appropriate.Remember that if you are not in a position of authority, evaluation feedback is not appropriate.  You can lead a horse to water . . .

Feedback Receivers: We all suffer from a lack of self-awareness at times and feedback is the only way we can learn what our blind spots are.   Even if you ultimately disagree with the feedback, accept it as a gift from the person giving it. If it’s evaluation or performance feedback, you have a chance to change in order to do better in the eyes of others.  If it’s fine-tuning or slap upside the head feedback, you have the choice to change or not.

Wendy Mack is a consultant, speaker, and change catalyst who specializes in helping leaders mobilize energy for change, For more articles and resources on leading and communicating change visit: www.WendyMack.com.