The Dreaded 8-Letter Word: FEEDBACK

Kathryn Scanland Care for people, Leadership

Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.  ~Jim Trinka and Les Wallace
Last week was packed full of feedback. My week started by facilitating a leadership team in an exercise to ease them into experiencing accountability  They each wrote down the greatest strength and one area of improvement for every other team member.  Then we began with the CEO. Each person first told him his greatest strength and then we went around the room one more time and each identified an area they believed he could improve upon. Then the CEO could respond to what he had heard.  We repeated that process for every team member.
What became a common theme throughout this exercise was how genuinely appreciative everyone was for the feedback. This was not a painful process (as some had feared); in fact, there was a sufficient amount of laughter interspersed throughout the exercise.  As the final member of the team gave his response to what he heard from his colleagues, he provided the perfect closing to this session.  He said, “after doing this, I sense a greater level of trust among this group.” Feedback is a gift!
Next I spent time poring through the results of an employee satisfaction survey for another organization.  Like every organization, they heard both praises and pitfalls from their employees.  What followed from the CEO was not rationalization or defensiveness in response to the negative comments, but a plan of action that was already being put into place to address areas of concern.  Without this feedback, these potential pitfalls could continue to grow and fester and cause irreparable damage.  Feedback is a gift!
In another scenario, I learned that a supervisor is covering for one of their direct reports by trailing them and then “fixing” what doesn’t get fully completed. In this situation feedback is being avoided. The consequence is that the direct report’s credibility is being undermined because other people know that this supervisor is trailing them and picking up the pieces. This supervisor is forgetting that feedback doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, feedback is a gift!
On a more personal note, I admittedly struggle with perfectionism. Sometimes I’ll avoid doing something or trying something because I know I won’t be able to do it perfectly. How shameful if I can’t perform perfectly! I was coached through this dilemma this week. One of my strengths (I’m using StrengthsFinder language) is “learner.”  Part of the learning process is receiving feedback so you can change and improve. If I can reframe my thinking from “not being perfect” to “an opportunity to learn” by receiving feedback I could maybe get beyond my not so helpful obsession with perfectionism. So my mantra needs to become: Feedback is a gift!
Dr. Henry Cloud in his book, Integrity, recounts an incident that happened on a retreat for CEOs, when a young “superstar” was given an opportunity to receive feedback from a more senior CEO.

One of the more experienced guys looked up and said, “Want some feedback?” He said it in a way that left you wondering whether he was going to give sage advice or rail at the young man for being out to lunch in some way. There was just no way to tell from his poker face. But I will never forget the young superstar’s immediate response: “By all means. Give me a gift.” He saw the feedback, whatever it was, as a gift because it could give him some reality that he did not know. I remember thinking, “We will be watching this guy’s accomplishments for a long time.”

Feedback is a gift!

Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.
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