The word feedback is loaded

Challenging our mindset, beliefs and assumptions about feedback

When someone tells me that they have some feedback to share with me, I have a physical response. My stomach flips. And I work in this world every day.

As organisations, there is still much work for us to do to really understand and share with clarity what we mean by ‘feedback’. Ask yourself – what do you mean by it?

The language we use, our expectations, and our intentions for giving or asking for feedback are wide-ranging. From building strengths or more honest and candid teams to correcting behaviour or showing someone the ‘right’ path.

And then there is the wider context and skill that goes around the actual ‘feedback sharing’:

  • The quality of the relationship and level of trust between the people involved.
  • The environment – both emotional (psychological safety) and physical (neutral ground, virtual, walking side by side, my office, your office, over coffee..?).
  • The approach – a 5:1 ratio of praise: criticism, the infamous and unmentionable sandwich.

Feedback sits at the heart of empowering a more engaged and higher performing workforce. To build a feedback culture with more regular, frequent and skilled conversations, with the ownership of each person’s development shifting to the individual rather than their manager or the organisation, we must challenge our mindset, our beliefs and our assumptions about feedback.

We need to check what we are holding as the ‘truth’. About the ‘right’ or ‘best’ way to approach something. About who has the answer.

We need to build confidence and capability in our leaders and managers to approach developmental feedback with the understanding that all we can ever do is offer our experience, our reactions and our feelings – our truths – about the impact that their performance, behaviour or choices have had on us.

Doing this helps each of us to better understand ourselves.

We can then get curious together around what this means – the ‘So What’.

  • What does this mean for their development?
  • For the team?
  • For the team goals?

Our invitation is to move from seeing feedback as an opportunity to ‘correct’ or ‘set someone straight’, or even to ‘coach’ them to the right way of doing things, to approaching feedback in any conversation from a mindset of curiosity and generosity.

By truly owning our feedback we can be more authentic. We can share with honesty our own experience and feelings. And by doing so, we create the environment for more real, courageous, honest, and empathetic conversations that accelerate performance and lasting change.

If you would like to have a chat about anything, please get in touch.

By Emily Cosgrove

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