Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Making Friends with Feedback

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.-- Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, coauthors of The One Minute Manager

Don't you just love it when people thank you, tell you how much you've helped them, give you a raise, bring you business, or warm fuzzies?

Receiving positive feedback feels absolutely wonderful and it's a valuable tool to let us know that we're on the right track. Negative feedback is equally useful, but usually people shun giving it or receiving it.

At lunch yesterday while Sally and I were solving the world's most pressing problems, she remarked about how much supervisors hate giving performance reviews. I've heard that often. It reminded me of student reactions to their grades; they're happy with good grades but often angry, defensive, or depressed when they don't get the grade they believe they deserve.

We need both kinds of feedback -- positive and negative. If you're not getting any, that's because you're not out there in the game of life. If you're a player, you get feedback in the form of advice, help, suggestions, directions, criticisms, awards, or even bank overdrafts.

Feedback is so valuable; Jack Canfield in his book, The Success Principles, suggests viewing any feedback, particularly the negative sort, as "improvement opportunities." He goes so far as to recommend that people actively and consistently seek feedback, by asking others how they can improve on their jobs, or asking, "How do you see me limiting myself?" (156)

Keep in mind that most people fear giving feedback -- because of the old "attack the messenger" habit. Nobody wants to hurt others' feelings, make them angry, or suffer their disapproval. So, to get honest feedback, you need to ask for it and thank the responding person.

Don't take the usual route to negative feedback, the quitting, the getting angry, or denying helpful information. See it as feedback to get you back on track to where you want to go.