Feedback Management is definitely not a “new” management skill.
For decades it has been listed in any management book or competence model as one of the basic skills for managers, and we therefore take for granted that any leader knows and is able to effectively give and receive feedback.
But is it really so?
From what I hear during my coaching sessions, I would definitely say NO.
The reality is, there are many organisations that still don’t have a “feedback-rich” culture, and many managers have quite significant room for improvement in this area.
Giving and receiving feedback in an effective and constructive way seems therefore to be a key, rare skill to find.
When talking about this topic, I very often hear my coachee struggling on two levels:
1. “I never get any feedback from my manager”
This is probably one of the most common phrases I hear. And my reply is usually: “Do you ask for it? And if so, how?”
There is no doubt that some managers are just more prone or more skilled in this area, but there sure is a lot WE can do to influence HOW and HOW OFTEN we receive feedback.
First of all, we should invite feedback, from our manager, our peers, colleagues, team members, etc. by being open in asking for it, for example during individual check-ins, at the end of a meeting, or after a presentation.
Secondly, we should invite people to be specific.
As much as we all like to hear “Good job!”, this is not really helpful in understanding what exactly we have done well, what was our impact, etc.
In order to do this, let’s not be shy, thank the person and then ask her to tell us more, so that we can learn and build on what we already do effectively. Be curious!
If we receive developmental feedback or bluntly negative feedback, be mindful of keeping our ears and heart open to receive it and understand it, always assuming good intentions and not getting defensive.
If we start excusing ourselves for whatever the other person didn’t find effective or, worse, we become resentful and aggressive, chances are we won’t receive much feedback from that person in the future, and we will stay blind to what doesn’t work.
Again, ask others to be specific, and be curious to understand their point!
2. "My organisation is not very feedback-rich"
My question would be “What can YOU do to foster a more feedback-rich organisation? “ How often do YOU give feedback to others?”
And by others, I mean everyone: up, down, and across the hierarchy. Yes, to your manager too!
Especially when working in a “feedback-poor” organisation, we should all take responsibility to role-model what effective feedback is, how it can be given, and how it can be received, instead of waiting for someone else to start.
After all, let’s keep in mind that “Leadership is not about titles. It’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage”¹
If you are in a management role, with people reporting to you, it’s even more crucial to remember that feedback should not wait for the annual performance appraisal.
Feedback is neither praising nor criticizing but is offering the other person a different perspective on their impact
It really is a gift, so let’s be generous in sharing it as much and frequently as possible, in a courageous, objective, and compassionate way.
¹ Brown, Brené (2018), Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Random House