In the pursuit of excellence: The truth about receiving feedback by William Corless.

Feedback is still one of the major struggles that exist in all organisations. My work on leadership programmes has provided me with some insights on the common challenges in this area and solutions that have been used to meet them.

Many managers avoid giving feedback or procrastinate on annual performance reviews due to the fear of the fall-out of the conversation. People often avoid getting feedback out of fear what they may hear. On the other hand, people ask for feedback and are unable to handle it.

In Ireland, we tend to be mainly indirect when giving feedback and swing to the opposite side of the pendulum to be too direct. So, the challenge is to understand how we overcome these difficulties, especially if we personalise the feedback and it hurts our feelings.

Discover First, Manage Later

Firstly, it is really important to understand the importance of feedback to you. Many people will have blind spots and area’s to develop. The ways to overcome this are through receiving feedback, coaching or shared discovery like group work or using psychometric tools.  The higher yourself self-awareness the higher your emotional intelligence will become.

Research shows that 90% of top performers have higher emotional intelligence and are far more likely to be more productive in their roles, have increased career promotions and higher salaries. Indeed, it’s estimated that emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of your job performance.

The role of emotional intelligence is therefore crucial to your career and receiving feedback is an integral part of the development process.

Managing the Emotions

Many people react in different ways when they receive feedback. Firstly, they may go into defence mode and, under an amygdala hijack, shut down and refute the message be delivered.

Secondly, some people may only listen and acknowledge the nice things, which is the danger of the feedback sandwich, (start nice, deliver tough message and finish with something nice). This of course could be a coping mechanism.

Thirdly, people can personalise the message as it attacks their ego or self-identity. This rocks their confidence.

Listen to Unlock

Being able to listen and unlock the message that is being provided in the feedback conversation is key to high performance. The lessons that I have learned from working with clients in an executive coaching platform or in group facilitation are as follows:

  • See the feedback conversation as a learning conversation. You are learning about yourself, about others expectations/ preferences, ways to improve your skills and enhance your emotional intelligence.
  • Recognise that if people are confident to give you feedback that there is a positive intention behind the message. Usually, people want you to fulfil your potential.
  • Is the feedback true and objective. Seek out people that you trust will be honest with you. Follow the rule of thumb: If the overall majority agree there is something to work on, there must be something in the message for you to work on.
  • Understand the reasons behind your defensiveness. Understanding triggers and why you may have a strong reaction to the feedback. Working with a coach could help you with this.
  • Realise, that if you tend to personalise feedback. Take time to process the feedback and wait for the emotions to settle.
  • If you know you are sensitive to feedback, prepare yourself for this. Stay objective and ask for a follow up meeting so that you can process the information and have a productive conversation.
  • Seek specific feedback and gain clarity on details and expectations  so you can make a development plan.
  • See your development plan as a challenge. Set goals to achieve this and before you know it you will be in a success spiral towards personal success.

Remember, feedback is essential to high performance. If you are in the pursuit of excellence, the only way to learn is through finding ways to improve. Whether you are a pro golfer, an Olympic athlete or a six nations grand slam winner feedback and analysis of your performance is crucial to your personal success.

William Corless is an IMI associate lecturer on the High Impact Leadership Programme. An executive coach, certified mediator and corporate trainer who works with C-suite leaders across a wide range of industries both nationally and internationally, William is also a guest lecturer with Notre Dame University.