Think back on your career. If you’re anything like me, you might have a painful memory or two about feedback that was given to you in a less-than-constructive way.
Feedback is critically important to our career growth, and if you had that similar experience, it’s likely you want to learn to give and get feedback in a way that helps you and others grow while also not making anyone feel bad.
Feedback has two purposes: to help us examine different choice points, or areas where we could take a different route in how we do things; and to help us do things more effectively.
While I’d previously had negative experiences with feedback, I’ve evolved to crave it as an opportunity to grow. When I’ve asked for feedback from someone I know and trust after speaking engagements – when I know I could have improved or been more polished – and they say it was great, it signals to me that we don’t have the kind of relationship where we’re open enough with one another to have a respectful dialogue about growth. Giving and receiving feedback strengthens bonds.
When someone asks you for feedback, it shows vulnerability, which is one of the most admired characteristics of a true leader. People who inspire us to follow them are open to input.
Lastly, feedback helps you determine where you should invest your time. Like our founder and CEO Ron Carson says, “Hire great people and get out of their way.” Sometimes you may think one area is a good strength area, but feedback could uncover whether things change and if you should delegate tasks to other people and help them grow.
In this article, I’ll talk about why feedback is important, how to get better at giving feedback by getting better at receiving feedback, offer you a feedback framework and give you guidance on what comes after the feedback is given.
Why Feedback is Important
We all view the world through our own experiences, and not everybody has the emotional intelligence to see how their behaviors impact other stakeholders and the business. As such, feedback is a mechanism to help stakeholders – and ourselves – grow. Feedback does the following:
- It helps you as a leader show your team you care about them and their development. It helps people develop their emotional intelligence, ensure clarity in expectations and confirm whether those expectations are being met.
- It gives employees the ability to be reflective on what they’re doing and how they can improve.
- It helps employees build the capacity they need to think more broadly about how their actions might impact others and what they’re doing.
- It helps to create an understanding that there’s more than just one right way to do things – potentially uncovering more efficient ways to operate.
Feedback also provides clarity around a person’s job duties. There’s a joke that many job descriptions end with “other duties as assigned.” While this is something we like to laugh about, don’t use this clause to dump duties onto your stakeholders that they didn’t realize they were responsible for.
One of the most common issues I see with leadership is that there is a lack of clarity from the firm leader to the team on roles, and on what success, career paths, vision, etc., look like. But you can ensure there are never surprises for your stakeholders.
Lastly, feedback shouldn’t be a one-time annual thing. No one should ever be hit with a surprise in their annual reviews. People should know what’s expected of them and where they stand with performance. Feedback and development should be woven into regular interactions and should be consistent, constructive and kind.
Good at Getting Feedback, Good at Giving Feedback
To be good at giving feedback, you need to be open to and good at receiving feedback. If you’re not getting feedback on a regular basis, you need to ask for it and keep an open mind when you get it. Identify who you want feedback from – whether it’s a supervisor, subordinate or peer.
Next, be clear on your goals. For example, be transparent about whether you just want to hear somebody’s opinion on something, or you want specific guidance on changes and improvements you might need to make. You can absolutely ask for feedback and not do anything with it, but be clear about that with the people you’ve asked for feedback. Most of the time, however, when you seek feedback, you want to change something.
Also, decide what type of feedback you need. The first type is choice points. These are points in a situation where you could make different choices and do something in another way. For example, in our Emerging Advisor Growth Accelerator Program, we roleplay a client and advisor interaction. After the roleplay, we ask the participants, “What choice points would you have for that person?” Meaning, what would you have done differently?
This type of feedback isn’t to point out things you did wrong, but to identify things you could do differently by learning from other people’s diversity of thought and experiences.
The second type of feedback is for change and consideration. And while it might be hard to ask for feedback because there’s a fear that you might be doing things wrong, you need to change your mindset to think getting guidance as an opportunity to be better. Other people might have a different point of view to enrich what you’re already doing well.
In terms of asking for and giving feedback, a simple, “What could I be doing to better support you in your success?” goes a long way toward figuring out how you could better support your stakeholders.
The Feedback Framework
Feedback is emotional, which is why it’s helpful to have a feedback framework. The feedback framework is geared more toward the second type of feedback – feedback for change – but it can still be applied to feedback for choice points.
If you’re giving feedback to change behavior, we don’t want to attack a person – we want to address a behavior. We want to bring the behavior to light and explain the impact it might be having on people and the broader impact on the business in general.
For example, if somebody is doing something that’s against the rules, or their approach with clients is a little bit edgy or they approach people with a harsh tone, the behavior has to be corrected because it could hurt your culture and client relationships.
Let’s say my supervisor wanted to bring up a behavior of mine. Based on a feedback statement from Flawless Consulting, the feedback framework conversation might go like this:
Jessica, when you ______ (specific behavior, for example, “When you have a harsh tone with clients.”)
It potentially causes _______________ (impact on others, for example, “It might make clients feel uncomfortable or like they can’t connect with you.”)
Which might result in _________________________ (impact on the business/what I care about, for example, “Us potentially losing clients.”)
The Step Beyond Feedback
You’ve given the feedback – now what? There are two situations. Now you either need to – based on somebody’s competency, confidence and experience level – give them direct advice or ask them to create a plan for adapting their behavior.
The second option is powerful because it helps the stakeholders take a deeper look into themselves, their motivation and their value and gives them an opportunity to take ownership of the process.
Either way, providing support to your stakeholders as they change course is critical.
Feedback is meant to help your stakeholders, your business and you grow. Take opportunities to give and receive feedback to raise the bar for everybody.