Skills 360 – Giving and Receiving Feedback (Part 2)

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Welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host Tim Simmons, and today I want to help you receive feedback with a positive attitude.

Okay now, on with the lesson. How do you feel when you hear something like this from your manager: “Listen, I really need to talk to you about the work you’ve been doing on that big project…” If you’re like most people, your heart starts beating a little faster and your mind starts racing. In fact, this is a common reaction to the idea that we’re about to receive feedback. We naturally don’t like it. But it’s important, so we need to learn how to receive feedback constructively.

Receiving feedback properly begins with thinking about feedback positively. First of all, if someone is giving you direct and immediate feedback, it’s a sign of good communication and a healthy work environment. The alternative is not getting feedback, or getting feedback too late to use it constructively. That’s not a good situation. How would you feel if, six months after finishing a project, a colleague told you that your boss wasn’t really happy with your work?

Next, when you get feedback, understand that it’s not personal, but about producing better results. Humans have a natural tendency to take feedback personally, but that will only hinder your performance. Focus on the ideas in the feedback, rather than the way the feedback is given or your relationship with the person giving it. Don’t think “why is he really telling me this?” or “why does he have to say it with that tone?” Instead, think “what exactly is he saying and how can I use that to improve my work.” Not taking things personally also means resisting the urge to become defensive. Just listen carefully and ask for clarification if you don’t understand. Try not to start every response with “but…” That’s a sign of defensiveness.

Now, sometimes it’s true that feedback is not delivered effectively. If this happens, be upfront about it. If a manager is constantly criticizing what you, tell him that you need the feedback differently. Good feedback is specific, so ask for specifics if you don’t get any. Good feedback is also actionable, so if it’s not obvious how you can use the feedback, then ask how. So if someone says “That report really needs some work,” you can say something like “is there any specific section that you think could be improved?”

Now, we’ve been focusing on negative feedback, or feedback about what you need to do better or differently. And people naturally focus on this kind of feedback. But you shouldn’t forget to recognize positive feedback when you get it. Let the praise inspire and motivate you. Build on that positive feedback and learn to apply your strengths in different areas. And if you really feel you don’t receive much positive feedback, then ask for it, like this: “Could you tell me what you thought worked really well in the report?”

So, stay positive and open-minded when you receive feedback, keep lines of communication clear, and you’ll be able to use the feedback constructively. And finally, pay attention to how people are giving you feedback. Whether you think they’re doing it well or not, you can learn how to provide better feedback to others.

That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.