Mental Model

We all have blindspots – what is unknown to us, yet known to others. We lack an accurate view of how we perform or how our style is interpreted by others. People shy away from feedback due to their ego or the uncomfortable feeling when someone sees them differently from their internal perception. Successful people can be delusional about their capabilities and achievements. Even if we have constructive feedback for these high performers, they can make it hard to give that feedback and therefore we don’t. Winners actively seek out feedback and see it as a gift they can act on to continuously reach new levels of performance.


Overview

Feedback, as a universal concept, provides the signal as to whether an outcome is being realized. Without feedback, we make think we are operating at our full potential but in fact, we are not. Most people are uncomfortable about both receiving and giving feedback to others. This can be overcome by adopting a mindset that feedback is a gift.

The receiver is getting something valuable with the goal of helping them improve their game. Even if it’s initially painful to hear, the mindset shift can help ensure you are listening carefully and act as fuel to improve your performance. For the giver, you are taking out time to prepare a constructive gift and investing in someone else’s success.

While we may not always agree with someone’s feedback, it’s at least an important data point to reality or perception. In the picture below, Marshall Goldsmith outlines the “Blind Spots” quadrant as one that offers “rare and precious” gifts.

Source: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful – by Marshall Goldsmith

I was fortunate to have worked at Microsoft for ten years which is known for its feedback culture. The continuous practice of giving and receiving feedback makes it a valuable process for both the individual and the organization. It’s a muscle that must be practiced by the giver and the receiver.

For feedback to have an impact, there needs to be trust between both people. If the receiver knows that it comes from a place that is sincere to help them improve their performance, then it’s more likely they will listen and take action. Feedback is a gift and the key is to make it easy for people to give it to you. Invite them by asking for feedback, ideally when it’s time-relevant. It can be simple and easy such as requesting feedback after you give a presentation or produce a deliverable. Make it easy for people to share this gift.

Directives

1 – Invite Feedback

Put your ego aside – we all have opportunities to improve.

Be curious about your “blind spots” – engage others to see what they see.

Make it easy for people to give you feedback – embrace it as a gift.

Request feedback at the moment – time relevant is key.

Listen to the feedback with curiosity – you may not agree but perception can be reality.

Ask for clarifications when needed to ensure you understand the opportunity to improve your performance.

2 – Give Feedback

Be direct and don’t hold back feedback that could help someone up their game.

Give timely feedback – impact and relevancy decay over time.

Give feedback that is specific – general statements are not actionable.

Be clear on what you expect in relation to the feedback.

Offer to be a resource to the person you are sharing feedback with.

3 – Value Feedback as a Gift

Understand, people are not obligated to share feedback with you.

You may not agree with the feedback – view the gift with curiosity and data points for reflection.

Thank those that take the time to share this gift of feedback.

Without feedback, our growth is limited to only what is known to us.

The gift that is known to others and unknown to self is priceless.

Be generous with your feedback gifts to others.

Experiment With

For the person requesting and receiving feedback:

  • Inform your work colleagues that you are seeking feedback to improve your performance. This reduces friction and invites people into supporting your development.
  • Request feedback during each one-on-one with your manager. Think about the feedback opportunities there have been since your last meeting. Those could be deliverables, meetings you presented at, etc. It’s important for you to drive the conversation.

For the person giving feedback:

  • If you are a manager, make feedback part of the one-on-one agenda so that it’s continuous and expected.
  • Be specific on the feedback in regard to what you perceived and what you expected. Be clear on the timeline when you expect your direct report to address the feedback.
  • Make your feedback timely. There is nothing worse than hearing feedback weeks or months after the event. The context and relevancy are likely long gone.

Resources

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful – by Marshall Goldsmith (Chapter 6 – Feedback)

Getting the Most Out of 360-Degree Reviews by John Behr (Harvard Business Review)

What Makes a 360-Degree Review Successful? by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman (Harvard Business Review)