Feedback, an uncomfortable but invaluable exercise

N°259b – Synopsis (8p.) – Performance Management
Feedback, an uncomfortable but invaluable exercise
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Feedback is often an uncomfortable exercise both for those who give it and those who receive it. Yet, it almost always brings useful insights. How can we derive greater benefit from the feedback we receive?

At every level of the organization, feedback is essential. Without it, how can we know if our vision is shared, if our projects are mobilizing people and are on track, if our behaviors are adapted to our objectives, or if our contribution is recognized? And this has become more important with the rise of agile methods, which require taking regular stock of project advancement in order to co-construct and adjust the course of ongoing work.

Yet, in practice, less than half of employees say they receive feedback regularly, according to a joint study by SuccessFactors and Oxford Economics. Why is there such a gap between needs and reality? Because giving feedback remains a delicate exercise which often induces discomfort or even tension between the two parties involved. It therefore comes as no surprise that many managers prefer to avoid giving feedback and that most of their subordinates receive so little of it.

But if giving feedback isn’t easy, receiving it is even less so! And contrary to what one might think, this requires real know-how. We must first beware of our own brain which, confronted with what it perceives as an act of aggression, reflexively triggers defensive strategies. The latter may lead us, if we aren’t careful, to dispute what the other person is saying, interpret comments in an excessively negative manner, or attempt to cut the conversation short. Moreover, we must deal with the weaknesses of our counterpart. It may happen that this person fails to choose his or her words carefully, is clumsy, or is even ill-intentioned. And if, despite everything, we manage to remain receptive, we must still identify what concrete insights to draw from this feedback!

Learning how to receive feedback is thus a real challenge that is far from easy. Not only must we encourage those around us to be forthcoming with their feedback, and learn to hold constructive discussions—but, above all, once the feedback is received, we must manage to extract its full value.

In this synopsis:
- Learn to ask for feedback
- Capitalize on all feedback—even poorly expressed!
- Receiving criticism

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