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Feedback is the secret ingredient for success and innovation!

Simple Tips for Accepting and Giving Feedback

Feedback is the secret ingredient for success. We desperately need it to remain relevant, grow and do our best work. It is a vital lifeline and plays a critical role in being an innovative and effective leader.

So why do we hear so little about it? Why do we fear having to give or receive feedback? I think it’s because we totally misunderstand what feedback is and underestimate the powerful potential it holds.

For too long feedback has gotten a bad rap. Generally, it’s labeled or perceived as criticism or disapproval aimed to make you feel less than or incapable. Leading us to avoid it at all costs. We don’t share ideas or problems with people who are too quick to offer feedback. We actively keep our “critics” out of the conversation. And when they do become part of the conversation we are defensive and brush off their comments as meaningless and unimportant. While this may help you feel better in the moment, avoiding feedback is going to majorly hurt and limit you in the long run.

Why? Well, I have a little secret to share with you, feedback is simply information. And really powerful information at that. It isn’t good or bad, it’s just insight. Before I lose you, don’t get me wrong there are unkind and destructive ways to give feedback. But the information itself is just information. Information that can turn your good idea into a great idea. Information that could be the missing link to a seemingly unsolvable problem. Information that reveals previously unseen issues and problems.

Still not convinced of the power of feedback? Well, I have a quick story to share.

Shortly after I was married, my husband and I were having dinner with an old college professor. During the course of the evening, I said: “Oh, I left my purse in the car, Dan can you go get it?” Then, a little later I wanted a coffee refill and said, “Dan wave down the waiter. I need a refill,” At the end of the meal, the bill came and even before Dan has a chance to respond, I said, “Get the bill Dan and make sure you give a good tip.”  These were just a few of the incidents where I told Dan what to do that evening.

Just as we were leaving, my professor pulled me aside and said “Karen, here’s some friendly advice. Stop being so bossy. Dan’s a great guy. You’re coming across as a steamroller.”

Initially, I was shocked and stung by my professor’s words. But with this small piece of information, she opened my eyes and stopped me in my tracks. Once I could take the emotion out of it, I could see that she was right. 

How grateful I’ve been through the years for her honest feedback. I’m still a recovering bossy-pants but at least now I am aware and thankful she cared enough about Dan and me to risk giving feedback.

I know that wasn't a business story per se, but it's a good look at how accepting feedback as neutral information with an open heart, leads to impactful growth and allows us to see something we didn't see before (or we were trying really hard to not see).

So how do we go about listening to and using feedback to our advantage?

Here are three things you can do to graciously accept feedback and use it as a tool for growth:

  1. Stop Talking and Listen - Our gut reaction to feedback is to get defensive and protect ourselves. As hard as it is, the first thing to do when receiving feedback is to just listen. Rarely is it easy but there is always insight to be gained. 

  2. Say “Thank You” -  The cool thing is when we get feedback from someone else all you have to say is, “thank you”. Someone cared enough to give you feedback, so simply take it and say thank you no matter how you feel.

  3. Identify the Valuable Information -  Remove the emotion out of what was said (because let’s be real, there’s usually lots of emotion) and identify the valuable information and opportunity for growth that has been shared. 

Receiving feedback is one skill while learning how to give feedback that invites conversation and growth is another.

Now that you're a master at receiving feedback, let's talk about how you can give constructive feedback.

  • Before you give feedback, pause for a moment. Check to see if it's accurate. Then, put yourself in the person’s shoes and think about how you'd like to get feedback.

  • Be kind, keep it short, don’t blame, and be specific as to what could be different next time.

  • When it’s time to actually share, first ask them how they think they did, or performed. Let them answer. This gives them an opportunity to reflect and share their own feedback. 

And one more thing...

Please don’t start the conversation with big, rosy, disingenuous compliments. Then boom, you lower the gauntlet of heavy feedback. Those “kind” words are immediately forgotten and all the person is thinking about is the negative feedback they just received. Instead, ask your friend/colleague/student to share what they thought went well. Sometimes by recounting the good, it helps people refocus.

Feedback is the secret ingredient for success. If you always welcome feedback and thank people who dare to give it, you’ll be more effective and impactful, easier to work with, and simply better at whatever you do!



Keep inspiring creativity! 

- Karen

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