I remember being new into a high performing workplace. I was giving my very first briefing on an air mission we needed to run. There were some very senior and no nonsense people in the room. I got about halfway through when someone from the back row said: ‘Gaz, that’s not going to work. We need to re-work phases two and three or this is going to fall on its arse…’.
I was shocked. In the middle of the entire briefing room I had just been called out. I got all defensive. Started babbling. Not only had my credibility taken a hit, but he was right. So, I was trying to come up with a new plan on the fly, in front of everyone. Eventually, the same guy piped up again: ‘Look Gaz, nothing here is an issue, and you’re losing the room. Take a step back and let’s work the problem together.’. Again, he was right. I think I said: ‘Ok. Where did I start to lose people?’. I had just entered a world of high performance teams with direct feedback. It was one of the best workplaces I ever had. Being direct and open with your feedback turns high performing teams into outstanding performing teams.
Firstly, let me say there is a difference between giving constructive feedback and being an idiot. The former is what you’re aiming for, the latter is never acceptable. So there are questions someone should ask themselves before giving direct feedback:
Does this feedback have positive intention?
Is this feedback going to help the business achieve a common goal?
By giving this feedback does it advance my ambitions? If it does, its probably not good feedback.
Am I genuinely trying to help with this feedback?
As with all culture within the business; the leadership need to model it. Not only by giving feedback, but by graciously receiving it. By the way, just because you get given feedback, it doesn’t mean you need to do anything about it. You can choose to pick out and use what you want from the feedback.
In order to get a great feedback culture, here’s some guidelines to follow.
When giving feedback:
Aim to assist. Feedback must always be given with positive intent. Giving feedback to get out a frustration, right a wrong, or advance your own political agenda can not be tolerated by the business. This can be avoided by clearly explaining how the feedback can help the individual or the business, not how it helps you.
Make it actionable. Feedback should be focused specifically on what the recipient could do differently and the impact that might have.
When receiving feedback:
Appreciate it. The natural tendency when hearing something uncomfortable to become defensive or fight against it. Decide how you can show appreciation for feedback, listen carefully, remain open minded and stay neither defensive nor angry.
Accept it or discard it. You will start to notice you get feedback from a lot of different sources. I would say you are required to listen to all feedback, but you are not required to follow all feedback. The decision to act upon it is entirely up to the recipient.