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Friendly Feedback

Recently I had the privilege and pleasure of hearing Dr. Marshall Goldsmith speak. For sure he was a name I knew but experiencing the person was so much more impressive. 

Dr. Goldsmith spoke to a room full of hundreds of coaches at the International Coach Federation Midwest Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. He had us giving feedback and advice to each other in ways we don’t normally do as coaches and it was powerful. It had me “musing” about feedback and feedback principles. 

I can still make myself recall the emotion from an experience from when I was 19 and working in an accounting firm in Toronto, Canada. It was “annual review” time and I was petrified. I was sick to my stomach for a couple days leading up to this event and not sleeping well. 

It would be great to be able to tell you that it was so much better than I thought it would be but it wasn’t. It was awful. I was a wreck after. There were behaviors that they waited until then to bring to my attention and I was crushed that I had been disappointing them, and, for so long. 

Dr. Goldsmith had us giving each other ideas on how to move forward in a specific area of behavior change (of our choosing) and made it fun.  

What is it that makes feedback safer? Possibly even invigorating? 

* The absence of judgment or shaming with the feedback 

* When it is offered as a possibility or suggestion for your reflection 

* When the environment invites feedback both directions 

* When feedback is frequent and delivered before a lengthy accumulation of frustration 

* Feedback limited to 1 or 2 things is also easier 

* Feedback we actually ask for also feels safer 

* Lastly, feedback on our strengths and growth is still feedback and is awesome! 

During my Coaching Training, at Royal Roads University, we did a powerful activity. We had been asked to bring a gift ahead of time not knowing what it was for and in a magical way, (that will remain secret in case you ever go as a student) we gave it as a thank you gift to someone that gave us feedback. When someone offers you feedback, it is a gift from them! (Some come in pretty packages and some don’t.) 

Offering someone feedback can be unnerving too. The more we practice both giving and receiving it in kind, direct and specific ways the better we will get at it. 

When we receive feedback a gracious practice is to simply listen without interjecting, justifying, explaining or refuting. Building in a pause that gives you time to reflect tells the other person you will seriously consider their feedback. It gives you time to let go of any initial emotional reaction, process the content and see how it sits with you. If appropriate it also gives you time to get feedback from others if it appears that you may have a blind spot. 

I’ll end with this fantastic idea from inspirational and wise Dr. Goldsmith (who generously started his first talk by telling us to use any and all of his ideas). If there is an area that you are working on, let’s say something that came up in a 360 feedback assessment, proactively go to your co-workers (or family) and tell them what you are working on. Then, take the initiative to check in with them every 2 months or so to see if they see any progress. This is a better way to get your progress noticed than waiting 6 months until you slip up!  Positive feedback will also keep you encouraged! 

Until next week, 


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