Receiving Feedback-How to use it effectively

Many of you know that I turned 55 this month.  Some will think 55 is old, some will say not.  I think that I am more effective now than I ever have been in my life.  That is not to say that I am always effective in every circumstance, but if I look at the aggregate of what I see and do now I have a great sense of confidence and self awareness in knowing how to react, or not, in any given situation.

How does this happen?  It is not easy.  There are many scars, some visible, with others being impossible to see, that have made me who I am today.  Each one of us is the product of our experiences and our learning as we go through life.  I sometimes think of life like a board game such as Monopoly or Clue.  Every day we roll the dice and move around the board.  When we land on a space we have to take some action or make a decision.  We have to choose to act based on the circumstances of our “space”.

Feedback is essential for development.  I remember well when I first became involved in giving and receiving feedback.  I have had supervisors throughout my career who did this well.  I have had others who had not a clue.  No names will be assigned, but I have tried to learn from each one of these to develop a style, a process, that will help others be successful when I help them either as a volunteer or in my coaching practice.

Today’s post is about how to use this feedback effectively.  Using feedback is similar to going through a buffet line at a restaurant.  You have many choices when you go through the buffet and you can load up on protein, carbs, fats or fiber.  We become what we eat when it comes to food and we also become who we are based on the feedback we receive and how we utilize it.

I have a story to share that will help you understand some of the most telling feedback I have received and given.  Don’t judge me personally in how I may have responded, but learn from my responses, good and bad, and move ahead.  In a previous career I was the manager of continuous improvement and training for a Japanese-American joint-venture in the automotive industry.  I had just completed a training exercise with a group of front line employees when one of my direct reports pulled me aside.  Her comment was something like this; “Dan, do you know you are intimidating those ladies in the classroom?” I was floored by her comment.  I asked for clarification and she elaborated further.  “You have a strong comfort level with math.  The people you are teaching have a HS diploma or GED at best.  You need to understand where they are when you teach them.”  I’ll never forget that moment.  It was a watershed experience for me in knowing my audience.

Listed below are a few guidelines I would suggest for each of you when you receive feedback from others.  I think that you will glean more from what you hear if you put these thoughts into practice both during and after gaining feedback from them:

  • Listen to the full story before you respond to the feedback
  • Understand that feedback is given to help you improve
  • Do not personalize the feedback as an attack
  • Resist the urge to respond immediately
  • Understand the feedback is based on the perception of the other person-it may not reflect your intent
  • Take time to reflect on both the good and the bad you hear-don’t focus too much on either good or bad-look at the aggregate
  • Prepare an action plan based on what you hear, but don’t do it immediately
  • Ask for clarification on points you do not understand
  • There may be feedback you hear that you do not want to act on; that is your choice
  • You may need to address how you deal with people or issues based on what you hear-this involves change and change can be difficult
  • Always thank the feedback giver for their input-it takes courage to give someone feedback and there are risks involved

I’ll come back to this topic when I post next week.

Take time to reflect-let feedback soak in and use it effectively.