The only way any of us can know all of the areas we can improve on is if we are open to feedback from others. As Bill Gates said, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That is how we improve.” But the only way we will get the valuable feedback available from others is if we create the atmosphere that allows others to be comfortable giving it.
Giving feedback to someone on areas they can improve is already uncomfortable for the person who is going to give it. It’s never fun for anyone to deliver news to someone that they know might cause the other person to be upset or feel badly. Too often people just hold back giving anything but the positive feedback to others because they don’t want to feel that level of discomfort that comes from offering suggestions on how to improve. But sadly, if people don’t share those suggestions then the other person will miss out on the opportunity to improve and become the very best they can be.
That’s why the onus lies on the shoulders of the person who is asking for feedback to create an atmosphere that lets people feel comfortable sharing it. They can do that by showing they are truly open to suggestions by listening intently while the other person speaks and then really considering what the other person is saying without jumping to conclusions or shutting them down. The second the person seeking the feedback gets defensive or cuts the other person off they will shut them down from talking further and thus the valuable feedback doesn’t get heard and the ability to improve is hindered.
Not only does it shut down the person who was trying to give feedback, it makes everyone else observing the situation also stop and think twice before opening their own mouths with feedback in fear they too will be rejected, or even worse, made to feel disrespected. The chances of any valuable feedback coming forth in those scenarios becomes nil…by that point it just ain’t gonna happen…
On the flip side we can all appreciate that taking feedback from others is hard, especially if you are asking for feedback on something you have worked really hard on and have emotionally exhausted yourself with before you even begin asking for feedback. That’s why all of us, before we ever ask for the feedback to be given, have to take an emotional step back and really gear ourselves up to be open to hearing what others are going to tell us. It might even take a little coach pep talk with yourself in the bathroom mirror before you walk into the meeting (or band rehearsal) – look yourself in that mirror and go all Vince Lombardi-ish on yourself saying, “We want this feedback. We need this feedback. We are going to go in there and show them that we are listening to their feedback and that we appreciate it, even if it hurts a little to hear it, because that is how we are going to ultimately become the best we can be. We can do this!!!” It may sound silly, but sometimes that’s exactly the kind of thing we have to do to help ourselves get into the right frame of mind, and if doing it helps us to create that atmosphere that will generate feedback, then I say do it!
Ken Blanchard said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” So if you want to enjoy the pancakes and eggs, invite people to the table, create an atmosphere that allows them to share, and truly enjoy the meal.
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