Tag Archives: Feedback

3 Tips for Responding to Critical Feedback

I have written previously about how to give critical feedback effectively, and how to ask for it. The other part of the equation is what to do once you receive critical feedback. It can be emotionally difficult, even if you asked for it, so it’s worth it to take some time to figure out how to process feedback thoroughly and make the most use of it.

1) Reflect on Whether It’s True

When we get feedback, most of us tend to immediately decide whether we agree with it or not. This impulse is totally natural, and it comes from a good place — having a strong identity. However, sometimes the feedback that can have the most impact is feedback that doesn’t fit with our view of ourselves. Feedback that takes you out of your own idea about what you’re “good” and “bad” at is the type of feedback that leads to real growth. If we wanted to rely on our own views, we wouldn’t have bothered to ask for feedback in the first place, right? So even though it’s hard, pause when you get the feedback, and resist making a snap judgment about whether you agree. Let yourself think about it and really reflect on it without judgment or anger. You may end up in the same place, and that’s ok, the process will still have been worth it.

2) Get Multiple Views

Since we do all have a very clear vision of ourselves, it’s easy to think that our view is the only view. However, it’s important to separate intentions from impact. By intentions I mean how you meant something to sound and how you thought you were coming across.  Often in the face of critical feedback, it’s easy to defend yourself by clarifying what your intentions were. While intentions are important, sticking to this point will blind you to the real area for improvement: understanding how you were actually perceived. Therefore, the greatest value in the feedback is that it will help you understand how others perceive you. Since one person’s view may not be the majority view, it’s a good idea to ask other people.  Don’t just go for quantity. Instead, think about who you trust, who knows you well, and who is skilled or experienced in the attribute in question. Then ask for their opinions, and keep an open mind for what you might hear. By doing this and asking for their honest views, you will get a much more accurate picture of yourself. Feedback is, after all, just a collection of opinions, so the best way to get an accurate picture is to ask more people.  While this can be uncomfortable, it is a very powerful thing, because it will allow you to make changes to your behavior that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.

3) Get Specific

I covered this in my post about how to give critical feedback effectively, but in case the person you are working with doesn’t follow that guidance, the burden shifts to you to get the specifics you need. Asking for specifics can sound awfully similar to asking for proof, and you don’t want these questions to come across as defensive (another example of the importance between intent and impact). Therefore, a good way to start is by making it clear that you are asking for specifics because you really want to understand the feedback. Ask questions like, “What could I have done differently? When should I have done something that I didn’t do? What was my approach missing?” You want to ask whatever you need to in order to understand the feedback around not just this situation, but whatever the underlying principle is. Only by understanding the principle will you truly be able to carry the lesson forward into your future work.

Tell me: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten?


A Guide to Performance Planning: Part 3

Today’s post is a continuation of two earlier posts on performance planning. If you have not read those yet, I suggest starting here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

So, now that you’ve done your planning and had the conversation with your employee, you’re in the clear, right? Not so fast. As I mentioned earlier, the reason you are investing in a performance plan is because it is in everyone’s best interest for your employee to succeed. To maximize the probability this will happen, you both still have a lot of work to do. Today I’m going to address some best practices for managing an employee on a performance plan.

There are many different ways to structure a plan, and while I have my views on that, I’m going to focus here on best practices for approaching the follow through, rather than the format of the plan itself.

1) Document It

In many corporate settings, managers are required to document performance plans. Even if it is not required at your organization, I recommend you document performance plans. The first reason for this is to increase the effectiveness of communication between you and your employee.  You may think you have agreement in a meeting only to learn much later that your employee misunderstood you.  Having them review and sign off on their understanding of the document is a great way to guard against miscommunications.  Documenting it also ensures that everyone agrees on the expectations and the ways in which progress will be evaluated. Additionally, having a living document  is  an easy way to track progress and make the plan transparent.  No matter what format you choose, make sure it is written down and shared with all relevant parties.

2) Make it a Collaboration

While you as the manager are ultimately responsible for creating the plan and evaluating your employee, you should still approach performance planning as a partnership. After all, your employee is the one who has to actually change their behavior, so you need to make sure they understand the plan and that they believe it is attainable. Involving your employee in the creation of the plan has some other benefits too. Firstly, having them partner with you to create it gives them a sense of control over the process. This, in turn, will increase their motivation to follow the plan. Secondly, they likely understand the daily details of their role better than you do. Therefore, their input on what is reasonable and attainable is key to making sure your plan is realistic.

3) Check in regularly

One of the most common reasons why performance plans fail to result in actual behavioral shifts is that they become static documents that are abandoned soon after the initial feedback conversation. The plan should be a living document, used to track progress and document examples. That said, the plan itself cannot substitute for continued open conversations between the manager and the employee. Set regularly scheduled meetings, review the plan, and agree on progress or setbacks in an open and direct dialogue. This ensures that you are getting on the same page regularly, so that you won’t be surprised by a major disagreement at the end of the assessment time frame.

4) Get outside opinions

While you and the employee are the main owners of the plan, it is very helpful to get outside opinions on how much progress is being made. Just as you checked in with relevant co-workers to gather the initial feedback, you should continue to follow up with those people to get their views on the progress being made. This ensures objectivity, and it helps you to get a more accurate picture of your employee’s performance. Perhaps there are some aspects of the plan where they are excelling while they are still hitting major roadblocks in other areas. You might miss this if you don’t regularly get feedback from people who interact with your employee on different aspects of their role.