Thanks for the Feedback

It is the authors’ assertion that we not only need feedback, but that in our heart of hearts, we actually want it…given others have insights about us we can’t see…insights that help us become better leaders, better team-players, better family members, and better people. It is also their contention that most of us dread feedback because we don’t know how to handle it. It triggers us; we get defensive, and as a result, set up obstacles to hearing it. For example:

  1. We listen for what’s wrong in the feedback so we can cast the whole of it aside.
  2. We don’t trust the giver. We don’t think they have our best interests at heart.
  3. The feedback threatens the ideas we have about ourselves. It hits a nerve; we feel ashamed or threatened.

As Stone and Heen dive into those core obstacles, we begin to understand why we react the way we do when someone starts providing feedback. Luckily for us, the authors are adept at showing us how to separate, deal with, and move away from reactions, so that we can assess what part of the feedback is useful—what part of it will help us learn and grow.

That’s really the aim of the book: to bring us to a place where we use feedback as a growth tool. For as the authors said in a follow-up article to the book(2): “Your growth depends on your ability to pull value from criticism in spite of your natural responses, and on your willingness to seek out even more advice and coaching from bosses, peers, and subordinates. They may be good or bad at providing it, or they may have little time for it—but you are the most important factor in your own development. If you’re determined to learn from whatever feedback you get, no one can stop you.” In other words, when it comes to feedback, the power lies with the receiver.

The book does remind us to give feedback in a respectful way. E.g., When you’re ready to say (and mean): “I am giving you this advice because I value you, and because I know you can become an even better person and team-player.”

When not to give it? When I want to tell you what to fix about yourself so you don’t annoy me anymore. Or when I’ve created a judgement or a label about something you’ve done rather than simply asking you what your words/actions meant. [By the way, it’s not that you’re not going to create the judgement – we all do that ‒ it’s that you have to revisit the pure facts of what you saw/heard and then go back to the person to see what was meant.]

Thanks For The Feedback is an excellent book, albeit on the long-ish side if you try to take it in all at once. Think of it more as a trusty companion ‒ a reference you’ll use and peruse time and time again.

Which is why we’d like to say: “Thanks for ‘Thanks for the Feedback’, Doug and Sheila”.

(1) Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, lecturers on Law at Harvard Law School, wrote the bestseller: Difficult Conversations. They are also cofounders of Triad Consulting Group. (Thanks for the Feedback is published by Viking/Penguin, 2014)

(2) Finding the Coaching in Criticism, Harvard Business Review. Accessed August 2014


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