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Getting Better at Feedback

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Get Better at Feedback and Criticize with Kindness

There is no “one size fits all” approach to feedback. That’s not how people work. We all interpret things differently—through our own filters. Especially when it comes to feedback. In some circumstance it can make or break a relationship and/or career. But when done well, it helps make people better. Thus, making it important to practice.

When you are trying to accomplish most anything in life, feedback is helpful. Try blindfolding yourself and hitting a bullseye. Or giving a speech to a room full of people with earplugs/masks on. Feedback is essential for goal pursuit. Information on successful and failed actions allows individuals to adjust and direct their efforts to match the challenge they are facing (Feedback & Goal Pursuit). Social roles and situations also dictate the ways in which feedback is expressed which can make things difficult. However, it’s important to remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to feedback. When looking to provide feedback in the business world it also helps to remember that experienced leaders benefit from tougher feedback, while novices benefit from more encouraging feedback.

It makes sense when you think about it. Think of someone who has run 100+ staff safety meetings. They are going to be much more receptive to NEG* feedback when it comes to ways they can improve the overall effectiveness of the meeting. Someone who is running the meeting for the first time would benefit from more encouraging feedback. According to ( Et AL.), “novices could seek positive feedback and experts could seek negative feedback in order to overcome upcoming obstacles in pursuing their goals”. Deadlines at work are another good example of this, the novice will likely seek positive feedback that affirms her perception that she can meet the deadline, whereas the expert will likely seek negative feedback that will help him stay on track and overcome further distractions.

Exploring these types of situations in which people can perceive the impact of feedback and make strategic use of it is an important focus for any leader. In order to get better, it all comes down to being an effective communicator and knowing your team. Another important factor in becoming a better leader is learning to criticize with kindness

Criticize with Kindness

One’s ability to criticize with kindness stems from one of Bovo-Tighe’s key values—Every person matters. Not only do leaders need to have a commitment to better, they must also develop a deep desire to understand and embrace the opinions of others. Easier said than done. Fortunately the American philosopher Daniel Dennett lays out what he calls “the best antidote to our tendency to caricature our opponent” in his book  Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, a brief list of four rules, originally written by Russian-American social psychologist and game theoretician Anatol Rapoport, which Dennett brilliantly synthesized, as we read in the post published by Maria Popova in her well-known blog, Brain Pickings:

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Feedback is a part of everyday life, personally and professionally.  We give it sometimes without even realizing it.  We receive it, often without thinking.  Practicing kindness and truly being mindful of what we say, is the biggest win.  We can help.

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