The Gift of Feedback: Intangible, Yet Indispensable

IMG_1448Just as it was when you were growing up, from that first finger painting in pre-school to that final thesis paper in senior year, it is valuable feedback from others that prompts you, guides you, and propels you toward excellence in your career. I often refer to feedback as a gift, which can only be given or received, and will provide someone with a unique tool that they wouldn’t have sought otherwise.

Sadly, in our business culture, there is a reluctance to give honest, relevant feedback, and a resistance to receiving and implementing feedback from colleagues. Worse still, many of us who are willing to give feedback lack the delicate skills to deliver it effectively. Add it all up, and you’re left with missed opportunity for personal growth, on a grand scale.

Allow me to lay out some tips for rearranging your feedback toolbox, and equip you with the confidence and nuance to give appropriate feedback to anyone, assuring they’ll receive it as the gift that it is.

The Art of “Constructive Criticism”IMG_1503

When offering feedback, the goal is either to reinforce a desirable behavior, or to shift a behavior to the desired one. For the latter, unless your “constructive criticism” is carefully administered, it might be dismissed as simply “criticism”, leaving the recipient with a sense of animosity at best. One solution: paint a verbal picture of the person. Since people can’t see themselves through their own eyes, you have the opportunity and responsibility to reveal their strengths and weaknesses to them. Be prepared, of course, to offer them alternative approaches. Tell them “that was smart, but in my experience, this is how to do it more efficiently”, or “I follow your intensions, but here is where you ran into trouble”.

Now’s Not the Time

Common sense can dictate the proper setting for offering feedback. The moment should be relevant to the subject of the feedback, and with only the appropriate parties present. Remember that feedback should be given in “real time”, not during a review, for instance, where the feedback might be interpreted as political or threatening. Another wise rule is to choose a moment when the recipient is not distracted or upset.

IMG_1509Perpetuity Rules

Something for all of us to remember: feedback is a dialogue, not a scolding. The deliverer has a social obligation to the recipient to ensure they feel free and safe engaging in the discussion. This, in turn, lends perpetuity to feedback, transforming it into a healthy, productive and ongoing dialogue that everyone benefits from, throughout their careers.

Want to Learn More?

With this, I’ve merely pulled back the first of many layers when it comes to the importance of feedback. If you’d like to sharpen your feedback-giving skills, and even learn about the other side of feedback…..receiving, join us on April 29th at Anchin Block & Anchin for a WAC community event exploring The Art of Feedback. Sign Up today!