The importance of feedback

The process of giving feedback is almost as painful as receiving it.
There are recurring feedback loops in someone’s career:

  • Work anniversaries
  • Promotion reviews
  • End of year reflections
  • 1-on-1s
  • Serendipitous feedback
  • Exit interviews 👀

There are many situations where you need to give or accept feedback.
Whether you’re a peer or a manager, you will have to deal with feedback loops.

I want to share some learnings from my career on the subject of feedback:

1) A 100% positive feedback doesn’t exist

Criticism is hard to dish out when you’re a leader. You want to be fair and unbiased.
On the other hand, imagine being a leader and being criticized by your team.
No matter how great of a leader you think you are, you can always improve.

Learning: don’t pet yourself on the back because no one is perfect, but be gracious in accepting feedback and don’t take it personally.

2) Don’t get hurt.

When you’re new to leadership (or on the receiving end - a leader might give you feedback) feedback cycles might cause you to feel vulnerable.
This will cause stress in and outside of work. However, your whole life doesn’t revolve around work!

A friend of mine was looking for a routine promotion.
He had just planned to discuss feedback with their manager:
during the session, the manager highlighted - using HR software and other automated metrics - only negative aspects from my friend’s performance.
These were all things thrown into the system systematically over 12 months by random employees.
This upset my friend. How could there not be a single constructive feedback paragraph?
My friend was baffled and angry for weeks, lost confidence in their work.
Also angry at the manager for being so unprepared in doing what was only a routine, decided to leave the job about 2 months later for greener pastures.

Learning: There’s more to life than a piece of feedback. Not only the person giving you the feedback might be biased or unfit to do so. Don’t let it affect you outside of work.
More importantly, only because someone wrote down feedback in HR software doesn’t make it valid.
If you are untrained to provide and give feedback constructively, don’t do it - pass on the potato to another person - or prepare better first!

3) Non-constructive feedback is the worst thing that can happen

Point 2 above leads to this: the feedback you receive or give should ALWAYS be constructive.
Don’t share feedback if you don’t have a way to make it into constructive lessons for whoever is on the other hand.

If you encounter non-constructive feedback, don’t be afraid to call it out.

Non-constructive feedback leaves no real impact, lots of frustration, and questions.

Learning: Always aim to give constructive feedback. Isolate flaws show a path to improvement with clear actions to take to do better going forward.

4) If you’re frustrated - disconnect first

It happens to the best of us - when frustration occurs, you can stop thinking clearly. You lost your clarity.
Not a good idea to give or ask for feedback in this state of mind.

It’s a good idea to think about resetting before going back in. Let your frustration dissipate - go for a walk, go to the gym, have a good meal, a shower, and come back to your desk/office and try again.

Learning: How you feel might influence how you think. Resetting your mind usually helps you do a better job at closing good feedback loops.