At the recent PBWC conference, Sheila Heen, co-author of Difficult Conversations and author of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (even when it is off-base, unfair, poorly delivered and frankly, you’re not in the mood), shared that so many difficult conversations were about feedback that they decided to study this in detail. Ultimately, they decided to study not the giving of feedback but how to receive it more resourcefully because it doesn’t matter how good the giver is. It matters how the receiver receives. The receiver is in charge.
- Appreciation is very important. Heed shared that 93% of all people who work feel under-appreciated and that 50% of the talent that leaves cites lack of appreciation as a reason. When you ask for “feedback” ask also for appreciation.
- Coaching is the next type. Coaching addresses here’s how you could do that better. When you ask for “feedback” ask for coaching. What’s one thing I could do that would help?
- Evaluation is the last type. Evaluation addresses here’s how you stack up against the competition.
- the challenge of seeing the feedback and self accurately (SEE)
- of responding to relationship triggers (WE)
- and to mastering identity triggers (ME)
SEE it and myself accurately first. According to brain research there is a 3000% difference (yes, that many zeros) in the way people receive feedback. So we have to coach people on how to give us feedback. We can improve the quality of our feedback conversations by first working to understand the past. What were their expectations? What were the implicit rules? How did they interpret my behavior? When did they see this? Once we understand the past, we can work on the future. What specifically are they asking me to do differently?
WE: Enlist the right type of mirror for the job at hand. We need both a supportive mirror and an “honest” mirror. It is hard to grow without both. When you ask for coaching, you are asking for an honesty mirror. Heen encourages us to ask the people whom we find difficult in part because asking begins to change the relationship.
ME: Deal with my part, mastering identity triggers. Heen says that the hardest feedback for us is the feedback for ourselves. Often that comes in the form of the story that I am telling myself, that we are telling ourselves. Heed gave the example of Olympic Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners. The Gold medal winners were happy because they came in first. The Bronze medal winners were happy because they made it to the podium. The Silver medal winners were the least happy because the story they tell themselves is, “I didn’t come in first.” Really listen to the story you’re telling yourself around that feedback and realize that you can “tell it slant” in a way that is kinder to you.
While some people are impervious to feedback, Heen also gives a great example of how we “super-size” feedback by effectively “googling” all the things I didn’t do right when we get feedback versus all the things I did right. The challenge is to right-size the feedback to the correct proportion and not let it capsize you.
In the end, Heen’s main point is that we have a choice about how feedback defines us. We can consider it input or we can consider it an imprint. The feedback is not the end of the story but it maybe what I want to work on in the next chapter. The receiver decides.
Next Steps: Heen suggests these as next steps:
- Ask for 1 thing from 1 person – “What’s one thing I am doing or failing to do that’s getting in my way?”
- Seek to understand the feedback – then ask, “What’s wrong with this feedback and what might be right?”
- Let your team and your family see you learn.