Why is Everyone Talking about Feedback?

James D. Ludema & Amber A. Johnson Article, Care for people, Change, Leadership

Every business conference we’ve attended in the last year had a session on giving feedbackThat’s the surprising realization we had as we planned our upcoming half-day workshop, Appreciative Inquiry for Coaching & Feedback.

Why is everyone talking about feedback? Two reasons. First, feedback has a reputation of being hard to give and even harder to receive. And second, because we know it’s vital to our success as leaders and team members.

At the Center for Values-Driven Leadership, we think it’s time for feedback’s bad reputation to change. If feedback makes your knees shake, it may be because you’ve experienced criticism, which is different than feedback. Check out our infographic, below, for a quick description of the difference between criticism and feedback.

Here’s the difference: Criticism focuses on what we don’t want. It focuses on what has happened in the past, and can sometimes make you feel helpless since you can’t turn back time to change things. Criticism points out weaknesses and can make you feel deflated. The subtle message is, “You are the problem.” Researchers John and Julie Gottman at the university of Washington have discovered that criticism is actually one of the worst things you can ever do for a relationship. They call it a Horseman of the Apocalypse.

In contrast, feedback is one of the best things we can do for our relationships. Good feedback focuses on what we do want: the behaviors, the characteristics and emotions, the choices, the teams that we most want as part of our workplace. It may be given out of a concern about a problem that has already happened, but it is framed in a way that focuses on the future. So you have the opportunity to improve and show growth.

Feedback intentionally builds up strengths, in fact, you often make a point of sharing what a person has done right, or what strengths they’re working with, as you help them focus on what is wanted for the future. As you can imagine, this kind of conversation can be inspiring. The message is, “We can make this better, together.”

We share more about the differences between criticism and feedback in our recent Forbes article. Find it here.