"Turn the wheel a bit slower, Lucy," my driving instructor repeated. "Slower... slower... SLOWER!"
"I am turning it as slow as I can," I shouted back, as the car bumped into the one behind us.
Go easy on me. After all, this was back in the days of learning to parallel park without any rear sensors! But, to be fair to my driving instructor, I should have listened properly to what he was saying, instead of optimistically assuming that I could do everything perfectly the first time around. Such is life, when you're 17!
If you've ever learned to drive, started playing an instrument, or, at work, had to respond to an urgent complaint or query straight away, you'll also be familiar with the concept of instant feedback.
Essentially, this is when someone gives you a moment-by-moment account of what you've done wrong, and what you need to do to "course correct." This kind of feedback requires an equally "instantaneous" reaction – you have to respond by fixing the issue right away! It's different from the feedback that you might receive in a one-on-one or performance appraisal, which tends to focus on longer-term personal improvement. Instead, instant feedback relates to correcting mistakes and improving the quality of our day-to-day tasks.
Now, I'll admit it. When I was younger, I wasn't great at accepting feedback – at least, not on the inside. On the outside, I'd nod my head and say, "Oh, yes, I'll be sure to correct that next time. Silly me, what was I thinking!" But, inwardly, I'd be seething: "Don't see what the big deal is! Sounds fine to me! Talking nonsense!"
That is, until I took another look at my work. "Ah! I must have missed that spelling mistake. Hmm, oh yes, and they are right about that bit. Actually, what was I thinking?"
Fortunately, over the years, I have got much better at accepting feedback. Where once my initial reaction verged on complete outrage, I now find that I barely bristle when someone calls me up on a mistake that I've made, or has a suggestion for improvement. And, that's OK (I tell myself). Because giving and receiving feedback properly, without judgment and with gratitude, is a skill. And skills take time to learn.
I even readily ask for feedback from my colleagues and manager now. And, I have to say that, without it, I wouldn't have the skills, knowledge, capabilities or, indeed, confidence that I have today.
We wanted to know how you deal with giving and receiving instant feedback. So, we threw the question out to our friends and followers on social media by asking: "What are your top tips for giving and receiving instant feedback?"
Difficult conversations, particularly when they are to do with giving negative feedback, are a necessary, but often tricky, part of working life. Often, this is because it can be hard to know just how someone will react. Will they get upset, angry, or defensive? Will they refuse to acknowledge it? Or, will they accept it gracefully?
Our Facebook friend Kiran Sinalkar suggests that the best way to deal with difficult conversations is to be as open and honest as possible. "Tell your observations and feelings," Kiran says. "Don't try to judge [the] intentions of anyone… give the other person a chance to [express] their feelings."
Over on LinkedIn, Teri Stiff recommended that we approach difficult conversations by focusing on the potential benefits: "Ensuring your focus is for the benefit of the employee makes a big difference! Sometimes I psych myself up by telling myself those very things when preparing for a difficult conversation. It helps to remind yourself that your role as leader is bringing out the best in your employees!"
When we receive feedback, it can be easy to take it personally. Equally, there's a risk of muddying the feedback that we give to others with personal bias.
Many of you warned against this, and highlighted the importance of giving honest, nonjudgmental feedback. LinkedIn follower Pav Ponnoosami suggests beating bias with good "self awareness." As he explains: "When giving [feedback], ensure it's for the receiver's benefit, not yours. Check your motives for what you are about to share with them, and be aware if you are possibly using it as a way of showcasing your own skills and knowledge. Stay solution-focused."
Pav also stressed the importance of keeping your emotions in check when you receive feedback: "Be aware of what other factors may influence how you take in that feedback. Are there offline factors, such as office politics, previous interactions, or just feeling needy… Again, stay solution-focused on what is shared with you."
Facebook follower Debbie Mitchell agreed, and suggested that the key to avoiding bias is to make sure that your feedback is grounded in fact: "Provide well-formed observations – as you see or hear them happening – in the moment. I always suggest it should be a fact on which no two people could reasonably disagree."
By doing this, and by inviting the receiver to respond, difficult conversations can become much less tricky. "Getting that agreement forms the basis of a much better conversation," Debbie continued. "Offering the opportunity to self-reflect based on those observations can be powerful, as well as inviting the receiver to come up with their suggestions for alternative approaches."
Balancing negative feedback with praise was also a popular tip among our followers. As Facebook friend Salacious Montgomery Crumb suggested: "Do it the Royal Navy way: praise, criticize, praise."
Over on LinkedIn, Noha Kamel shared similar advice, and recommended taking a gentle approach: "You need to have that caring attitude with the right tone of voice and focusing on body language. You say [that] they're doing really well, then state what they need to improve. Then close with your support to help them through what makes them better."
How do you respond when someone gives you instant feedback? And, what do you do if you need to hand it out? Share your tips and techniques in the comments section, below.
"Systemic ableism is shutting people out because we're not actively thinking." Allies can change that, person by person, moment by moment.
Swearing is not necessarily bad per se, it’s about context and culture. As one U.K.-based HR manager told me, "It's an interesting one, and every workplace and person will be different."
"A conversation can be subtly steered so that someone will come to a conclusion and make a decision themselves. And this is the ultimate catalyst for change." - Joe Morris
An effective technique I use for giving feedback: 1. Find a positive by telling them what is working well 2. Rather than dwelling on an negative aspect help them move forward by telling them how they can make it "even better" next time 3. End on a positive note by telling them something else they have done well.
Great choice of words Margaret Rose for the second bit of feedback. I also use that phrase 'something you can do even better the next time ...'.
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