The Anatomy of Feedback

It is important not to operate in a vacuum. For a start, you can’t breathe! Getting some feedback and critique is good, but also has to be right, delivered effectively and accepted in the right mindset.

Presenters used to say they wanted feedback. All too often they wanted just praise. Its understandable and I’m making a sweeping generalisation to make a point. Presenters give something of themselves when they present- a little bit of them rubs off on the performance (if they are any good at least)- and so if someone in any way critiques that it can be taken personally with an “OUCH”. No one likes their baby being called ugly.

Giving someone feedback has to be a bit of carrot and a bit of stick. The balance has to be right and not in a ham-fisted way- so not a good bit, then bad bit, then good bit. The sandwich nobody wants to consume! The balance is also not always enclosed within any one meeting- it can be over a period of time and also encompass non-meeting events- so bumping into one another in a kitchen or in a corridor and not just in any formal meeting. If things are really god when you meet and listen back, then don’t invent a negative or criticism just to have something! However if you go week by week and there is nothing, then chances are you are not getting much out of the meeting.

The best feedback sessions at least push you out of your comfort zone a little. This should be regular and you should feel like there is some progress. If you feel that you just can’t get anything right and every time you meet there is “just no pleasing this person” then the balance might not be quite right. Too much stick.

Sometimes as a coach I would not give a criticism over something specific at that time, because I had not build up a trust or an acceptance level just at that moment. I could have just gone for it and pointed things out, but in the long run, it would not have improved performance and so since that is the ultimate gold, what is the point if just proving the single point. A coaching or feedback session isn’t just an opportunity to get things off your chest, or to point all all the things someone has done wrong. Who would look forward to that? I have experienced many of those kind of sessions- at the receiving end, and they are demoralising and totally unproductive. I’ve sat in them and just tried to make them end as soon as I could. I’m sure the person delivering the feedback thought they were trying to inspire me to try harder, the reality was they just made me want to leave. Equally I’ve sat in meetings where supportive, considered feedback HAS made me want to do better and improve. I’ve left those meetings wanting to “go into bat” for the person who helped me and make something fantastic. What was the difference? Tone, trust, and timing. If someone needs to improve their performance, you could just tell them everything they are doing that is wrong and needs addressing. It won’t make them feel any better or likely to improve. The only person it will make feel better is the one doing the telling and that isn’t the point of the meeting! It doesn’t mean you have to avoid the issues, pull the punches, or not bring things up or be honest. Brutal honesty is still brutal after all.

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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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