The Importance of Welcoming & Providing Feedback
There are many aspects of my work that I enjoy, and one of those is watching the growth and professional journey of colleagues. A few months ago I read an email newsletter from Dr Amy Silver, an expert in the power of communication, impact and influence. I first met Amy at a Your Time Matters (YTM) event where I spoke about LinkedIn. Since then I have watched her grow and develop her business. Her message about the role and importance of feedback in the workplace resonated with me, and so I asked her permission to share her words with Think Bespoke’s community.
Amy writes a popular blog called Silverlinings where you can read about how she helps businesses communicate for excellence and influence. Here is her recent article on Conversations for Growth.
“This year, I have been working with a large professional services firm enabling more powerful conversations for growth. They knew that distractions, wasted emotion and wasted opportunities for improvement were discussed ‘at the water cooler’. After a preliminary research phase we found authentic conversations were sometimes avoided, and “difficult conversations” were not handled well. When this happened internally, it impacted engagement and opportunities for professional growth. When it happened with clients, it meant lost opportunities, lack of connectedness with relationships or that projects that crept out of scope.
We mightn’t feel it is our place to comment out loud (just under our breath), or we might feel that nothing will ever change (so we don’t talk about it till the exit interview), or we think that the emotion will be too hard to deal with (so we take it home instead, or say yes to something we should have said no to), or we don’t know how to do it successfully (so we don’t do it or do it badly and still expect change to happen). Frustration mounts, and our capacity to grow or help others grow is hampered. Feedback or authentic conversations have the power for enormous change potential. But as Georgia Murch (http://www.georgiamurch.com/) discusses in her book, Fixing Feedback1, feedback is broken. We often hear of people holding feedback until the annual performance review, where it is delivered out of context and with far larger potential for emotional reaction than for us to use it as a learning opportunity. We cripple our potential to learn, to grow, to offer fulfilling opportunities to our colleagues, and we all suffer.
My client used a transition point of a new leader to kickstart a new message – We welcome honest conversations, for growth. We have found significant growth in engagement and profit as a result of the work we have done.
If you want to multiply the engagement and sense of achievement for your colleagues, we need to increase their potential for growth and connection. Honest conversations are the tool with which we can do this. It is how organisations will stay relevant. We can and should learn how to use conversations that enable development and change – it is a dynamic process, not a discrete event”.
Amy’s Suggestions for Growth
So, here is what I suggest – if we want to create an environment where the pebbles we cast into the pond create opportunities for growth and not for disengagement, we need to welcome feedback; we need to invite feedback. If we don’t, we cripple our potential to learn, to grow, to offer fulfilling opportunities and engaging relationships. Cultures can become toxic, and this can lead to high turn-over, high insecurity (and emotions), and low engagement.
My first step in working with people on how to have powerful conversations for change, is to work on receiving feedback. Here are some early steps in the process:
- Gain consensus that feedback is helpful.
- Learn how to receive feedback, screen the value in the feedback, collect feedback, understand the different purposes and lenses of receiving feedback.
- Learn how and why emotions are aroused through feedback and how to de-emotionalise the content, so you can evaluate the learning opportunity within.
- Notice the manner in which you receive feedback, how and why it is useful.
- Get comfortable with asking for feedback consistently.
Amy asks . . “Once you have learnt these skills — like The Karate Kid2 did, you are now ready to move onto the lessons on how to give feedback to enable change”? Amy says “she knows people want the “how to give feedback” course now but that would be like going to the Karate meet before learning waxed on and waxed off”.
1 Murch, Georgia. Fixing Feedback. Melbourne: Wiley, 2015.
2 toLuMike. “Karate Kid Lesson 1 (Wax on Wax off)”. Online video clip. Youtube. Google, Oct 15 2007. November 29,2016.