I have a confession. I’m new to social media. I have held off for as long as possible, and a little beyond that if we are honest, and then discovered that modern business really requires a presence on social media. So I signed up and posted some of our blogs and white papers. Whilst we had some great interaction what struck me was the freedom with which negative feedback is given, and the seeming venom with which it is levied. So I thought this blog I would share with you my very personal reaction to this new world of communication.
When the first few negative comments came through I admit I had a physical reaction to it. Racing heart, nausea, sweating. It was truly horrible. As more comments came in I started to think “are our ideas that bad? People we have worked with really like them. We get results with clients. Why are we getting this response?” I started doubting myself, our business and our core philosophy. And over all of these sensations and feelings was what I think many people must experience on social media – shame. The feeling of “who else is going to see this? What will they think?”
Thankfully this was short-lived. And I am grateful to our detractors because it has really solidified areas of my philosophy for me – specifically around giving and receiving feedback.
My core belief and the premise on which I operate is that if you come from a place of respect and curiosity any conversation is possible and often meaningful to have. I believe one human being can be purely honest with another, as long as respect is the platform, and due consideration is given to the framing around delivery. From my standpoint this value or belief was breached by the communication we were receiving, and the inability to have meaningful rebuttal left me feeling unresolved and angry. We do a lot of training and consultancy around the fallout from staff being left with this feeling. It is avoidable, and if left unchecked it is devastating.
It is critical for a leader to be able to effectively give and receive feedback and for a positive company culture to thrive. Follow these steps below:
1. Always operate from respect
So often, particularly in times of stress, people treat communications as mere transactions and overlook the fact that the other party is a human being and is deserving of respect. Not only is it more humane and (in my opinion) ethical to interact this way, it is more effective. If people don’t feel respected the outcome will certainly be compromised.
2. Ensure you have enough information to form a view
Shooting from the hip can have devastating effects in an organisation. You could say something unwarranted, illustrate an underlying bias you may have, or simply show your ignorance. Either way, before providing feedback (or indeed considering feedback you have been given), ensure you have informed yourself sufficiently to properly form a view. Otherwise, you are not in a position to give any feedback other than “I’ve not considered the information, so I don’t know”.
3. Frame feedback within the other party’s scope of reference
Try to link your feedback to the other party’s scope of reference so they have a meaningful understanding of what you are saying and why. For example, if you are giving feedback to a junior employee tell them why (in terms of things they are aware of) their actions were good or bad. Illustrate how their actions made a difference in context, and what could be different (or the same) next time. This links the feedback to something that will matter to them.
4. Be clear on the purpose of the feedback
Let’s face it, in the corporate landscape (and apparently Twitter) a lot of feedback is given to knock one side down to make the other feel or look better. That’s fine – however be clear on what you’re doing and why, and then actively make the choice. However, if the feedback is to contribute to another party or better a circumstance, that too requires a choice about purpose. Clear intention in communication is what sets the path for the interaction. For communication to be meaningful you must make a clear choice at the start as to the intention and the purpose. This will allow you to guide the interaction in a way that serves your needs.
5. Be open to changing your mind