When feedback works well

by Last updated Nov 28, 2021Developing staff, Improving your work performance

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I was recently given a piece of very useful feedback and really appreciated it – even though it was unsolicited. There are three interesting things about the experience. However, first I would like to thank the person involved. I’d like to thank them for taking the time to bother, for the way they set up the ability to have the discussion and the well-constructed thoughts they gave me (which I am attempting to put into practice).

There were three interesting things about this process:

  1. Unsolicited feedback is often (though not in this case) ego dished out and wrapped up as “being helpful”.
  2. Effective feedback is to be well constructed, most is not well constructed.
  3. Introverts are introverts. That doesn’t mean they need wrapping in cotton wool, but does mean that they may process our feedback differently.

What is feedback?

Feedback is information about a person’s performance of a task. The intention should be to improve future performance. For that intent to be met the feedback needs to be wanted, accepted, understood, and acted on.

What’s normally wrong with feedback?

If the feedback doesn’t meet those four conditions, it cannot be effective. If ineffective what was the point? If the person delivering the feedback feels better about the process than the recipient does the feedback was more about ego than a desire to help. This is more likely to be the case if the feedback was unsolicited.

What’s the best way to accept feedback?

A number of years ago I learnt that the polite thing to do when given presents by relatives who don’t really know you was to smile, say thank you and later decide what to do with it (enjoy, throw away or recycle).

Treating feedback in the same way makes sense; whether it was delivered with good intent, or was all about the ego of the delivering person.

Are introverts different when it comes to feedback?

No…….and yes. Introverts don’t need wrapping up in cotton wool. Being introverted doesn’t make them shy, timid unconfident wallflowers.

However, the way many introverts think involves internal validation. To be effective your feedback needs to help them reflect on:

  • What the elements of a great job are
  • How their performance was against those elements

You might like to read “giving feedback to introverts” for more details.

Why was this feedback so good?

She asked if I’d like to hear her thoughts on something I’d been doing, but made it very clear it was totally up to me. That part of the process was on email, I could easily ignore it, without losing face.

When we started talking we discussed feedback in general (purpose, how it tends to be ineffective etc.). So now I’m an introvert engaged in detail on a topic I like talking about.

The one thing she did “wrong” was adding comment about how she knows that as an introvert I might not want to receive feedback and implied that I needed some form of protection.

She then clarified the important parts of the process I was involved in; made her points giving specific and irrefutable facts as detail, and linked them to the elements of the process when it works well.

I could now take that information, reflect on it, act on it and improve.

the feedback needs to be wanted, accepted, understood, and acted on

I was left feeling good and that I’d learnt something useful. Great feedback.

You might also like to read Feedback – Does it damage or do good?

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