Conversation, Ongoing: The Back-and-Forth Circuit of Workplace Feedback

Making the shift from anxious to excited has revealed itself to be the formula for a curious mindset. Once you’ve made the transformation (which fits into the rare category of simple and easy), your emotions will stabilize, grooming you to receive workplace feedback constructively and without impediment by bias or defensiveness. My recent article, Self-Check Strategies: How To Make Feedback Sessions Work for YOU, is your resource for controlling the controllables during a formal review by strategizing how you’ll “show up” in advance.

Armed with these strategies, it’s now time to let your mindset evolve further by acknowledging that feedback is a continual and perpetual practice. With that, I invite you to change the energy around both giving and receiving feedback. The word “feedback” implicitly gets a bad rap, a secondary definition of which is “abrasive noise”. If you stick with the primary definition, “The Ebb and Flow of Communication, Giving Life Force to Engagement at Work”, you’ll be dialed into where the magic happens. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that feedback isn’t a one-way street. If only one person is speaking during a formal feedback session, that life force can be muted at best, smothered at worst. Think of feedback as a circuit, a back-and-forth, a continual dialogue. Let’s explore.

Reframing Is Crucial

To adopt a circular thinking attitude, reframe the concept of feedback from buttoned up and formal to recreational. For instance, if you’ve ever played a sport or an instrument, you’ve received perpetual feedback from your coach or instructor. This reference to a leisurely activity is intentional. When you rebrand the purpose of coaching as being directed and guided to manipulate your actions to improve your technique, it doesn’t seem like you’re being judged. The necessary extra step with workplace feedback is to do more prompting to extract information from the feedback providers and more accurately interpret their input. Where are they coming from? What is their perspective/bias/agenda? Remember, empathy is standing in someone else’s shoes.

Look Back to Look Forward

Here’s some good news: Once you’ve identified the weak spots and employed a few tweaks to your feedback exchange interactions, these conversations will become richer, translating to better work, less stress and a greater sense of team effort. To begin, ask yourself, “How can I change my daily interactions so I can obtain information along the way?” A good place to begin is to look back so you can look forward. After each project, engagement, meeting or deliverable to a client, no matter how well-received, engage in a debriefing.

Use this debrief routine as an opportunity to seek Constructive Criticism. Here are a few tips that will help you engage in that conversation:

  • Be specific about the ask, particularly when your presentation misses the mark or your report was not well-received.
  •  Imagine what you could have done better.
  •  Enroll the others on your team. Ask them to point out similar behaviors, blind spots and roadblocks in the future.
  •  Practice first with family and friends!

On The Providing End

For the feedback circuit to persevere, you, yourself must be intentional in providing feedback. Get explicit about what went well. Quit saying “good job” and instead offer specifics: “You managed that difficult conversation well. You prepared the client for bad news, laid out the problem, and offered solutions. You were the ultimate professional.” This gives the recipient of your feedback the opportunity to reflect on their approach so they can replicate it going forward.

But what about when the feedback you offer is negative? Maintain that same growth mindset. Your goal is to continually “learn for the future”. So before offering guidance, understand the other’s intention. Ask a question: “How did you think that went”? or “This project missed the mark; help me understand your intention.” Get a sense of where they’re coming from. Were they simply not thinking or were they intentional but using poor judgment?

The Ultimate Resource

Now that we’re heading into the holiday season, seize the opportunity to practice these techniques on family and friends. Since we’ve spent most of this past year exploring all aspects of Emotional Intelligence, we’ve compiled a little review before your holiday parties and family gatherings. During the next two weeks, we’ll revisit and share DRIVEN’s best articles of 2018. I invite you to not only review these highlights, but to peek at the articles that precede and follow them, to stay in this sequential train of thought. These posts suggest a roadmap for molding yourself into a thoughtful and productive professional, thereby realizing your life’s greatest potential. Remember, EQ is a muscle that gets perpetually built. Stay tuned…..