Feedback Is Not What You Think

When it comes to giving corrective feedback, there is a lot of confusion and debate over what works.

Some people even say that we should not get or seek corrective feedback, but only positive feedback on what we are already good at doing.

I disagree with that approach, but I also think there are problems with the old-school, blunt, aggressive, in-your-face, direct approach.

I hear construction, manufacturing, and industry leaders say, “I’m not afraid to say what’s on my mind. That’s what good leaders do.”

Human services leaders say the same thing, in different words, “I have to be direct and blunt in my feedback or our clients will suffer.”

These points might all be true, but they strike me as more about protecting the ego of the leader/feedback giver than they are about helping the feedback receiver to be more effective.

If we truly wanted to help the receiver of our feedback to be more effective, then we would consider how to get the best response from them – the response that improves the chances that the receiver will earn more positive reinforcement.

I could write a book on this topic, there is so much to cover! Thankfully for you, I will keep this short and just hit a few points.

Meet them where they’re at. You might see one challenge they are having, whereas they might see a different thing as the challenge. Meeting them where they are at means starting where they are ready to start, and not forcing them to do something they see no value in doing.

Model what good looks like. This is not just “walk the talk”, although some of you know that I think behavioral integrity is vital. A more direct way to model it is to regularly ask for feedback on your own behavior and initiatives, and demonstrate you are listening carefully to it.

Get them to ask for your feedback. I think we assume that if people just have the information they need, then they will change. This is erroneous thinking and is not supported by science. On the other hand, if the person seeks the information rather than having it forced on them, they are much more likely to accept it, act on it, and improve from it. So what can you do to increase the chances of those things happening? How can you create a situation in which the person wants your feedback and help?

This last one is probably the most powerful strategy of all. It takes the strife and conflict out of feedback and turns it into support. It becomes a relationship-building exercise.

And that’s what we want…easier conversations…quicker change…better relationships…and more success!

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