Feedback is crucial to achieving amazing success and there is an art to giving and receiving feedback. While feedback often has a negative association, some people are naturals at offering feedback and don’t seem to mind when it comes their way.
But it’s an odd person who actually enjoys feedback. More often, people react like they are under attack or consider honest criticism to be just nitpicking or nagging. But good feedback can drastically improve the other person’s performance and help both parties accomplish mutually beneficial goals.
Below are some helpful tips on the art of giving natural feedback.
Set Expectations Early
Every new relationship is like a dance with both parties gently testing the boundaries and expectations. Each is looking for subtle indicators about whether the other party values being on time, if they will overlook white lies or what kind of language is acceptable. If expectations are not set early, the relationship can be muddled. Early on in my professional career, I thought I needed to be nice and ignore little things like tardiness. However, by the time the issue turned into a problem, it was too late to make a change. You must teach people how to treat you. When you set boundaries, the best time to enforce them is when the consequences are low – in other words, at the beginning, not months or years into a relationship. It’s always easier to turn a “no” into a “yes” than the other way around.
Make Your Values Known
We each have our own set of values. These may differ between our personal and professional lives – and not everybody has the same values – but we all have our values. I place a high emphasis on honesty, being amazing, having a good attitude and remaining cool under pressure. I make sure my colleagues and staff understand these expectations. I have made the mistake of working with people who lacked these values, and instead of telling them I compromised because I was too excited about everything else.
Explain the Benefits
Let’s face it, nobody looks forward to an employee review and filling out a customer survey. But these are key processes for improving your business and life. So, instead of randomly forcing uncomfortable feedback situations on people, try explaining why an employee review benefits both them and the company or how a customer survey can help the customer. Be transparent about feedback processes and show why they are necessary.
People want to know their work is appreciated and valued, so saying “thank you” when appropriate is a powerful way to give feedback. Letting people know when they are correct or did a good job is important. Writing thank you notes or buying small gifts is a great mechanism for providing feedback.
Feedback doesn’t need to be complex. It can be as simple as asking: “can I do anything else for you?” or “how can I do better?” I once heard a speech by the author Keith Cunningham who said when he first met his wife, he asked what she wanted in a man. “A note every day,” was her reply. Cunningham said his wife does receive a note every day, and sometimes it’s not a nice note. We often assume that what makes us happy and satisfied will also make others happy and satisfied. The simple art of asking can clear this right up.
Feedback isn’t always obvious; it can be subtle and wrapped in a series of hints. It is a bit like a game of chess. Your next move is partially decided by reading your opponent’s actions and judging their intent. Likewise, if your spouse leaves her birthday gift in the corner of the closet and never puts it on, that means you need to better understand what she wants. If your colleagues avoid you, maybe you need to change your office manner.
It is much simpler to receive feedback than to give feedback because we feel more in control when we can dismiss a person’s criticism. On the other hand, giving out feedback requires the recipient to happily accept it, which can be challenging – to say the least.
The importance of finding the right people who can elevate your performance cannot be overstated: a writer needs an editor, a comedian listens for audience laughter, an athlete listens to their coach and a business should be collecting customer surveys. The first step is to clarify your goals. You can’t just ask a business consultant to make you rich or a psychologist to make you happy. Take responsibility for where you are and where you want to go. How will you know you’re on the right track if you don’t have a destination?
Your flow of incoming feedback will soon dry up if you can’t accept criticism. Constantly making excuses, failing to do the work or biting off people’s heads are terrible ways of responding that will only result in zero positive feedback in the future. Bear in mind that those offering feedback will likely be unaware of every single nuance in your life. No law says you must agree with the criticism, and some back and forth can be a good thing, but there’s a big difference between complaining about a hard workout and saying, “I can’t do burpees because my knees are injured.”
While feedback can lead to an amazing life and is a necessary part of success, it can be an icky and uncomfortable process. If you want to exploit the power of feedback, you must know how to give and receive it.