The importance of giving and receiving feedback
These last few weeks I’ve been reading a book related to feedback to learn more about this topic. The book is called Smart Feedback and their authors are Jane Rodriguez, Rosa Rodriguez and Noemi Vico. I would like to share what I have learned and how important it is to give and receive feedback both on a personal and organizational level.
As people, we have different experiences, perceptions and histories and the truth is that many times we take all this as a basis to relate to others and deliver a judgment or opinion. Regardless of the topic, people have an opinion of what we are doing right or what we are doing wrong, according to their own criteria. Just as we also have an opinion of our own behaviour and that of others.
Whether working in a team, managing conflict or in any other situation where feedback is needed, it always comes up. Learning to give and receive feedback is still a need we have both personally and professionally. We need to become more aware of its importance and put it into practice on a daily basis with anyone else we care about.
The word feedback has been mentioned several times, but what is feedback and what is it used for? Feedback would be any information that people give us about ourselves and that is usually used as a means to correct a behavior, although it is also very useful when it is used to strengthen a certain behavior. When a person gives and receives feedback we must take into account that there are emotions and points of view. This makes it a complicated issue and that is why it is often avoided both at a personal level and at an organizational level.
But what happens when we receive feedback? When we receive feedback we sometimes tend to judge the feedback itself and even think that it is not fair or correct, when what we should do is to analyze how we act. Because perhaps they are giving us some information that we didn’t know before and perhaps it can be very useful for us to improve. We must realize that they are giving information about a specific behavior or fact, and never about our person. There will be people who have more experience giving feedback and are based on facts, and that will make it easier that while we are receiving feedback we understand at that moment they are talking about what we do, and not about what we are. In case the person who is giving us feedback doesn’t have so much experience and uses labels about us, it is necessary that we distinguish between being and doing. This will allow us to receive the feedback in a different way.
Creating a feedback culture should not be limited to the role of people with responsibility. Feedback should be practiced and actively pursued by everyone. We need to consider the impact that feedback can have. As long as we are not convinced of this impact and feedback doesn’t become something natural, it may be necessary to formally define procedures and moments of feedback, a kind of policy that allows us to integrate it little by little until it becomes almost a habit or characteristic of our organization. It is difficult, because as mentioned, it’s one of the most difficult and feared conversations for everyone; but we also know that without feedback there isn’t personal development possible, and that is why it is a real gift.
Some fundamental guidelines mentioned in the book that can be put into practice to get the most out of the feedback we receive are the following:
- Leave the ego behind, as it is the enemy of personal and professional growth.
- Maintain and attitude open to learning and continuos improvement.
- Let’s trust ourselves, even if we make mistakes. Feedback is about what you do, not who you are.
- Differentiate what we are from what we do.
When giving feedback, we must avoid personal opinions or judgments in what we say to the other person. Subjectivity has no place in this matter.
The book also sets out the following rules that can be very useful when giving feedback:
- The feedback has to be descriptive. You have to focus on the behavior, on the concrete situation and its details. Avoid giving any kind of opinion, interpretation or judgment about the other person’s personality. You must be objective.
- Be specific. Get to the point. Avoid using personal comments or messages that my cause confusion
- It must be direct. The feedback must be oriented to the behavior to be improved or changed. It can also be used to reinforce a certain behavior.
- Be selective. Try to focus your feedback on no more than two or three behaviors.
- Give timely feedback. The closer you are to the fact you want to correct, the better.
- Try to give balanced feedback whenever possible. If we have something to acknowledge, do it, but don’t wait to have something good so that the bad doesn’t feel so bad, because it can counterproductive.
- It’s advisable to make suggestions to the other person rather than indications. The feedback will be more influential if the person is the one who proposes the changes for the future.
Feedback is a gift that helps us all grow. However, in many occasions we waste and don’t appreciate this gift. We even turn a deaf ear and stay the same as before after receiving feedback.
If we don’t have feedback, who we are and our view of the world is unique and quite deficient. To learn and grow, we need others. It’s difficult to know what we need to work on to improve, if we don’t develop the ability to really listen and incorporate what others see about our behavior.
When we want to modify our behavior to obtain other results, it’s necessary that we first have an attitude for change. This attitude must allow us to take responsibility and take into account that each person builds their reality, with their possibilities and limits, and that they have the power to change them or not.
To create a feedback culture it’s necessary that there is trust between the people who are part of the team or organization to which they belong. The problem when there isn’t trust is that people tend to be less vulnerable and find it much more difficult to recognize their mistakes. Acknowledging our weaknesses and mistakes doesn’t make us less strong, quite the contrary. To create this feedback culture, it’s necessary that feedback is practiced and pursued by everyone.