Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

As business leaders we often find ourselves in the position to give and receive constructive feedback. Rarely are we taught how to have these critical conversations in a way that gives us the results we want. Feedback is a gift we are giving or receiving IF the communication is productive and based on wanting the best for another person’s growth and development.

Giving Constructive Feedback

There is a time and place for quick concise feedback, and then there is the kind of feedback that should take more planning. As a leader you have significant power that can result in harm or good when you share an employee’s weaknesses with them. Feedback must be grounded in knowing your WHY (your intentions), WHAT (your message), and HOW (your delivery). I’ve seen many leaders struggle to communicate important, constructive feedback because the message was lost in a poor delivery. If someone can’t “hear” the message you might as well be talking into the wind. We often underestimate the importance of preparing ourselves for an effective conversation.

WHY are you giving the feedback?

The first question to ask yourself is why am I giving this person feedback? Is it because I want the best for them and exposing a blind spot will help them become the best they can be? Or am I giving feedback while I feel angry and upset and I’m in a mindset of criticism, condemnation and judgment (CCJ)?  CCJ energy is abusive not supportive by nature. CCJ energy is therefor an abuse of power. It’s important that when you give feedback it is for the person’s growth and development and your emotions are in check.

WHAT is being said?

Most people rattle off words without any thought or consideration for how they will sound or be perceived. There is an egocentric aspect to sharing feedback. Words have power. Is your message able to be heard or is your message lost because you haven’t conveyed it in a way the person can receive it? This takes knowing yourself and having the ability to regulate your actions. This also takes knowing the person you are speaking to and understanding how they prefer to be communicated with. These skills are part of emotional intelligence, something we teach and train clients on regularly. A DISC profile can help you learn more about yourself and others (click here to learn more about DISC).

HOW is it being conveyed?

Are you giving feedback in passing? Do you drop a bomb quickly and then walk away? Are you emotional, angry, or upset at the time you are trying to talk to someone? Or do you set the stage purposely, in control of your words as you lead up to the message, deliver the message, then stick around to clean up the message and make sure it was received appropriately? True feedback given in the spirt of support and betterment of an individual takes time in a conversation, but often leaders drop a bomb quickly then leave the individual to interpret the feedback and make sense of it on their own. This is laziness on the part of the leader.

Receiving constructive feedback

On the flip side, when should you take criticism to heart and when should you say thanks, but no thanks, that feedback doesn’t fit?  When you are given feedback simply say “thank you”. You are not required to agree with someone’s feedback, nor should you get defensive and try to justify your behavior. Feedback is simply information. You get to decide what, if anything, to do about it.  Give yourself time to sit with the information. When you take a step back, you allow your defense mechanisms time to flare up internally, not outwardly, then come back down. This time allows individuals to think about the message and come to own it as their truth or not. The power of accepting the feedback is therefor in your hands.

As leaders we are often at the receiving end of getting constructive feedback. Some of that feedback we may need to challenge ourselves to accept and not allow our defense mechanisms and ego to get in the way of real pearls intended for our growth and development.  But sometimes the feedback given isn’t for our betterment, it’s to hurt and wound us. This kind of feedback we need to take with a grain of salt and not let it cause an ego wound by giving away our power to another person. We can’t catch negative comments and pull them close to our heart from people who are not being brave with their own lives. As leaders, we should mine for and seek out feedback from the people who care about us, who love us because of our imperfection and vulnerability, and genuinely want to see us grow into the fullness of who we are meant to be.  All other feedback given in the spirit of CCJ energy needs to be weighed for the grain of truth, but not pulled fully into our sense of self.

Don’t give your critics your power, embrace your own imperfection and surround yourself with people whose feedback is for your betterment, not your destruction. Take a complimentary behavior profile to embrace your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses.

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