Feedback is your friend.

Probably the best thing I have ever learnt is to value feedback in the most positive way possible. I remember as a much younger person, this also wasn’t necessarily the case for me. I recall the prickly responses I would give, the deflections and defensiveness that would ensue. I even remember resentment that could last for a couple of days. Though looking back, on each of these occasions, there was a glimmer of light at the end of these instinctive responses. I’d realise that perhaps the person providing feedback had more experience than me, had my best interest at heart and that if I actually took on these points, I could probably improve. With age and time, comes enhanced ability to gauge and control your responses and this time-lag between feedback, to glimmer of light moment would shorten. Nowadays, I actually welcome feedback and even relish it. Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect and there will always be some residual feeling there if someone offers feedback when I am slightly off guard. Overall, however, I would like to think that I am nearing the 'Zen point' of accepting all feedback as a natural flow that can only nourish and benefit.

What exactly is feedback? We hear the term all the time, but do we truly know what it is and why it is so important?

The term ‘feedback’ is used to describe helpful information or criticism about prior action or behaviour from an individual, communicated to another individual, who can use that information to change and improve current and future behaviours.

So who would dispute the idea that feedback is a good thing and why would you do so if it is the ultimate catalyst for continuous improvement? Both common sense and research show this to be the case, plus it also allows us to build and maintain better working relationships with customer, colleagues, reports….and your own employer and leader(s) if done the right way!

Top performing companies, leaders and individuals are not only good at accepting feedback, they deliberately ask for feedback and they know that feedback is helpful only when it highlights weaknesses as well as strengths. In other words, there should be no room for placatory responses just to tell people what they want to hear. It has to be authentic to have any impact and the best people and companies at encouraging and receiving feedback know this.

Clearly feedback does have to be given the right way. It has to be respectful, tailored to a degree to the audience receiving it, framed the correct way and I would also say timing is important. Ultimately you want you feedback to land and be taken the right way and we have to acknowledge this in the context of human behaviour since there are various sensitivities and powerful emotions such as pride wrapped up in all of this. As a case in point I would suggest the following 5 must haves:

- Feedback should always be provided face to face and in a suitable setting

- The person providing feedback should ask permission first

- Examples should always be provided to support points based on specific behaviours

- The person providing feedback should be coming from a positive place and want to see the receiver improve their behaviour with a beneficial outcome

- Communication style is key – It should be respectful and professional

So why not set yourself a challenge. Are there things going on in your workplace that require you to give feedback? What specific things and what would be the best way of going about this?

Also, what things do you think your manager or colleagues would provide feedback on regarding your way of working? Are you ready to take feedback? Are there things you’d rather not change or don’t want to hear?

If you are ready to join the journey of accepting and providing feedback based on the guidelines above, only good things will happen. Good people to work with and work for are good at taking feedback.

It’s that simple.