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  • Pratima Mangar

Embracing Feedback: Taking It, Giving It, & Receiving It


I honestly have to say that I have only gotten this far in my career and in WIB because I’ve grown a thick skin and kept an open mind. I’ve tried my best to embrace incorporating new and exciting ways of doing things and I’ve let people coach me along the way. Part of being a leader is knowing when to listen to others to help you be better; and on the flip side, it also involves knowing when to be courageous and telling others how to be better. Recognize that words of wisdom come in many forms and that feedback needs to be embraced. Here’s how and why:

TAKING IT

Let me just start by saying that it's not easy to hear what you're doing wrong or what you could do better. People desire to be loved, recognized, and cheered on, but many fail to realize that we also deserve feedback and criticism to grow. If we aren't getting any feedback, our careers and personal growth will more than likely remain stagnant.

As a former board member and current executive board member of WIB, I think I have mastered what not to do when given feedback. Often, our first instinct is to apologize. I'm not sure if it's a womanly instinct or a defense mechanism, but you don't need to be sorry for doing something you thought was right. Just be open to changing for the better.

Another way people sometimes respond is in defense. They quickly say, "That's not what I meant to say/(do)." or, "That wasn't my fault." Again, WRONG..

The correct way to respond is with gratitude. We thank people for praise and recognition so we must learn how to respond to feedback in kind. Even if you think the other person is completely wrong, just thank them and take note of the conversation to rethink your actions when in a similar situation.

Recognition is a form of positive reinforcement. People give recognition because they want you to continue that behavior and spread it around, and subconsciously, we do that. Similarly, feedback is a form of negative reinforcement. It is given to stop you from doing what you were previously doing and to encourage a new, greater behavior.

You will not grow in organizations if you do not master the art of taking feedback.Think of it like this, when people feel comfortable giving you constructive criticism, they feel comfortable investing in your growth. And an investment in your growth legitimately means you will grow. Responding to feedback will ensure mobility in an organization.

GIVING IT

Giving feedback is easy. It seems humans are born with the ability to criticize others, but not with the ability to take criticism. The difficult part here is giving effective feedback.

When I compare the times I've given effective feedback to the times I've given ineffective feedback, I notice three really big differences.

  • Be genuine. It is so important to remember that the leader and the subordinate are both people. When giving feedback, you should definitely consider business decisions and the overall growth of the organization, but more importantly, you should consider the overall growth and development of that person. Don't be a robot--don't be afraid to let them know you care about them. If you're having a hard time giving them feedback, say that. Don't forget to be a person.

  • Get their input. People are so much more receptive to feedback when they have the chance to set goals and share their ideas on how they can be better. When I have a hard time getting my point across, I often ask questions rather than make statements. Be specific - "How do you think your attendance at board meetings has been?" or "I know that you don't feel like you're getting your team's support and I want to help you with that, so could you tell me how you have supported any of them?"

  • Use numbers. And if all else fails, quantify. People can disagree with your opinions, but facts are cold and hard. If you specifically show them how their attendance has been in ratio and percentage form, there is no denying that. They can give excuses, but they cannot deny. Thus, it is important to efficiently track everything you can.

RECOGNIZING IT

Feedback is not always explicit--and when it's not, people tend to take it even more personally. But useful feedback comes in many forms.

In retail, it's an angry customer. In peer groups, it's the person you think is saying bad things about you. On the train, it's the person who glares at you for taking the seat they obviously had their eye on. That last example is probably the only one in which you should continue doing what you were doing - it's hard to get a seat so keep it. But in all other situations, you should probably change your behavior in some way.

It's also hard to get feedback, so again, if you get feedback in any shape, way, or form, take it and embrace it. Understand that even if the feedback isn't given in the effective way, it is still extremely worth taking into account.

Whenever anyone says or does anything that makes you upset, stop and think before you react. Ask yourself, "What can I do to make this situation change? How can I make this better?" Be creative and think outside the box, don't expect anyone to give you the answer.

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