#Feedback would happen if…we didn’t make such a big deal out of it

Posted: May 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

My contribution to the marvellous #feedbackcarnival by the super lovely Helen Amery @WildFigSolns

Feedback – don’t make such a big deal out of it…

See for me THAT’S the problem right there.  It’s a thing, an event, part of a process, linked to stuff.  Modelled, featured, tooled-up.

Just the mere mention of this

“Please let me give you some feedback” 

makes many people recoil; freeze; tense-up.

“Did I ask you for it?”  “Are you qualified to give it?”  “What’s your motives for it?”

Affirming, positive feedback?  Awesome – doesn’t even feel like feedback. Confidence-boosting stuff you hoped you were good at and others confirm you are (in non-sycophantic manner of course).  If that’s such a good feeling then why do many of us react in that tensed up way when it’s time to “receive feedback”?

Like being critical of others?  Feedback is the perfect place for you then.  You can simply acknowledge good performance and behaviours as “acceptable” and then really keep your place in the knowing realms of superiority with that little jibe at the one time they slipped on a deadline for something inconsequential.  Whatever power game you want to play in this white collar version of gang culture, the feedback dynamic is the place you can assert yourself.  Or like a conversational battle of beating chests or rutting of antlers, be talked down by the alpha player.

Want to justify your leadership credentials?   Then do the feedback thing to assert that.  Whether people need it, deserve it or it’s appropriate to do so.  You can show your merit in this game, like a pre-Gladiatorial contest without the need to formally don the armour.

But really – what is your intent for feedback?  Why make such a big deal out of it?

I’ve thought long and hard about my own need for it and the reactions I’ve had about it.  I’m incredibly self-critical but clearly, like all of us, I’ll let some stuff slide.  Does getting feedback on the things I let slide help me do them any better or provide me with inspiration to “move the dial”?

No.  Here’s why I think so.

Feedback to improve, to overcome, to help, to boost, to grow needs to be matched with the person’s intent to want to improve, overcome, be helped, boosted, grow in the areas and topics and behaviours that matter to them.

Many moons ago I was rubbish at doing the filing.  This was when paper records were king.  I didn’t do it that regularly.  I got a load of feedback about clear desks and all that.  I had loads of feedback about organising my day; etc.  I had feedback saying it was a key objective of mine and was letting my performance levels down.

My intent was to get as much real work done and do my filing episodically as it wasn’t as important.  No matter what feedback or incentives I had nothing improved.  I got sick of the predictability of the feedback.  I loved seeing the manager struggle to find examples of any damage done by the weekly build up of files in my tray or the impacts of only doing it once a week.  Attempts were made at this but there was always a way people could locate a file if it wasn’t in the drawer.  I’d processed something on that case earlier that week “it’ll be in his tray I bet”.  And it was.  I wasn’t trying to create an alternative filing system but one tiny extra step for someone OCCASIONALLY was not enough to force me to change my habits.

And instead of feedback someone then gave me the best question around this area…

If you could anything about your lack of enthusiasm for filing what would it be?

I wanted to trade something.  My time/effort/skills whatever with someone who in turn, would take a task I didn’t believe in or want to do.  Turns out Jane-Marie was willing to do it for me every day if I helped her learn more about wider work areas as she wanted to get promoted.  I was THERE.  Filing done everyday.  Jane-Marie and I even did the filing together as we chatted about what she wanted to get from the world and the roles on the team I was part of.

NO amount of feedback moved me on something so simple and trivial.  LOTS of attempts at feedback simply created tension and even arguments over what the role of a team leader was.

When someone stopped trying to GIVE me feedback and instead left that out and gave me a chance to create something, only then did change take place.

Feedback is by definition mechanistic circular causality. I felt I was on a loop of this.  Round in circles just looping back.

When you go to Wikipedia for its definition of the word feedback it refers you to a section around behavioural reinforcement and personal feedback.

Behavioural reinforcement.  When I was invited to reflect, think about behaviours I wanted to reinforce, of things I believe would be more helpful in getting the task done and me setting my own incentives and intent to overcome – I changed.

So feedback isn’t always and may indeed rarely deliver on its purpose: to affect change in someone.

Next time you want to “give someone feedback” why not invite them to a conversation about anything they want to reflect on, reinforce and reinvent.  You’ll probably end up sharing stuff that might look and feel a little like feedback so this isn’t window dressing.  Hold the space; give them the airtime and get them excited about better.

As far as I’m concerned with feedback, less really is more.  Stop making a big deal out of it.

Now where’s that $hit sandwich someone made me?

  1. vanessapye says:

    Hi Perry

    Love the post

    I learnt something called impact feedback, taught to me by Lyssa Adkins and Micheal Spade. I tried it out today with someone who left me a hurtful comment on one of my posts in LinkedIn. It goes like this – may I give feedback …yes/no if yes than when you x it made me feel like y and this was the impact. You give it in the spirit of caring…I’ve tried it out and have never had a negative response. More often you get thanked :0

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