I’m on an exhilarating feedback binge. I’ve been on a major upswing of both asking for it and being asked for it.
Feedback is everywhere, yet how often do you dare to ask for feedback and then receive it in ways that make you a real live learner? Ever wonder what’s a great antidote to stagnation? All kinds of feedback.
What Counts as Feedback?
Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen are Harvard Program rock star authors of an outstanding new book Thanks for the Feedback. They are compelling writers, and this passage is my favorite working definition of feedback:
Feedback includes any information you get about yourself. …it’s how we learn about ourselves from our experiences and from other people – how we learn from life.
It’s your annual performance review, the firm’s climate survey, the local critic’s review of your restaurant.
Feedback includes the way your son’s eyes light up when he spots you in the audience and the way your friend surreptitiously slips off the sweater you knitted for her the minute she thinks you’re out of view.
It’s the steady renewal of services by a longtime client and the lecture you get from the cop on the side of the road.
It’s what your bum knee is trying to tell you, and the confusing mix of affection and disdain you get from your fifteen-year-old.
The Perception Gap
Over the course of my life and my career I have gotten a range of expected and unexpected feedback from friends and clients. Some of these are “go for the growth” moments. Like the time I teased an agency leader about his advanced birthday in front of a large group and later learned he found it utterly offensive. Or how about the time that by failing to question, I facilitated a joint decision that ended up furthering some of the most unhelpful stereotypes about how things worked in one part of Indian Country. And then there were all those other times.
Here is one precious insight from Heen and Stone’s book. They label it ‘the gap map.’ What I have learned is that we humans tend to judge our own awesomeness by ourintentions. Our clients, family, friends and workmates more often judge us by ourimpact on them. Intentions and impacts are different measures. Both are important. Where’s the gap in that?
Okay, picture my intentions. Oh right. You can’t see them well.
Now, picture the impacts I have on you. Do you see, feel, hear some of those?
Somewhere in there between my intentions and your experience of the impacts I’m having on you is a BIG HUGE GAP. That’s a significant space, a gap that’s out of view. I can’t fully see my impact on you and you can’t fully see my internal intentions, right? Yeah.
Wonder: What Does Receiving Feedback Look Like on a Good Day?
When I am operating as my best skillful self, I take a breath, and I get reeeeeal curious and a lot quieter. What are my feedback givers seeing that I can’t see? Whether it’s criticism or appreciation or something unrecognizable from my 16-year old daughter, a client, my husband or a stranger behind the wheel of a car, or evaluation from a boss, instead of defaulting to the well-traveled impulse to get defensive or launch into explanation or blame, shhhhhh. I listen. And as one client asked me today: what if the feedback is, “that was amazing the way you handled that, thank you!” Maybe it just was. Amazing.
Back to the Feedback Trough
Some quick metrics illustrate a partial story of my aforementioned feedback binge. In the past 7 days I have:
- Facilitated a meeting with a big room full of stressed people who have been locked in more than 30 years of conflict;
- Solicited feedback from each of those 16 participants about what they may have noticed about what I did or didn’t do as their facilitator-for-a-day that helped or hindered them;
- Asked for feedback on what positive aspects a state agency group saw for their re-organization and what questions were most on their minds;
- Delivered feedback and some ratings for professionals who solicited our help as trainers for their own conflict and facilitation skillfulness;
- Coached a group experiencing workplace conflict by asking some in-depth, easy questions.
This long list of giving and receiving feedback activities all in one brief stretch is not typical for me. That’s a binge. I feel lucky to make a living in this strange field of public conflict and private coaching. To me, becoming an expert facilitator and coach means I practice, practice, and practice some more: giving and receiving feedback.
I turned 50 this year, and at this milestone I have come to realize that feedback is one of the most satisfying things around – fueling more awareness and clearer choices, both personally and professionally. Whatever your age, whatever your interests in life, enjoy some feedback binges! So how about a nice, rich cup of foamy feedback with butter and coconut oil? Receive it, give it, sip it, swim in it. Discover how you’re coming across.
A bit about me: I am here to connect people to their own genius and to one another within organizations/work places. I enjoy standing in that gap between what people are able to accomplish on their own and what they are so often willing to rally and accomplish with experienced, impartial support. Find your own rewarding trail through conflict and change. What helps you usefully receive appreciation, coaching or evaluation feedback? Make a comment or drop me a line. Thanks for the feedback!