In last week’s post, Integrating Feedback with Skill and Grace, we outlined the 3 key steps for integrating feedback about your performance:
1. Work with what you’ve heard
2. Prepare for the next meeting
3. Meet again
Last week, we looked closely at the first step Working with What You’ve Heard and today we’re going to focus on the second step:
Step 2. Prepare for the next meeting
The goal in the follow-up meeting is two-fold. The first is to demonstrate that you have heard the feedback (and that you take it seriously) and the second is to get more information about the feedback that you heard but don’t understand. [You will notice that there is not a step for becoming defensive, proving them wrong or debating the feedback.]
Having coached many professionals through the process of integrating feedback, we have seen the continuum of responses that feedback can evoke in people. Some believe they must simply believe what they have heard, that it “must be true”. Others quickly dismiss all the feedback they get – especially if they disagree with any or all of it. Neither one of these approaches support you in claiming your power and genuinely learning about your impact. To really learn from feedback, it’s important that you take the time to pause and reflect on what you’ve been told.
The purpose of the first step, Working with What You’ve Heard, is to put yourself in another’s shoes and see what you can learn from the feedback they offered. Once your emotional reactivity decreases and you understand how it’s possible that someone might have experienced you in the way that the feedback indicated, you are better able to decide if you want to change that behavior in the future.
This second step, Preparing for the Next Meeting, is about acknowledging your impact and noting how you might go about changing the behavior, and identifying and seeking clarity about those areas where you don’t fully understand the feedback. For instance, if you received feedback that you were not collaborative but you can only think of times when you have been collaborative, you will need to gather more information to understand how your behavior was experienced as lacking collaboration.
You might say, “I’ve really thought about this piece of feedback and can’t fully understand how I have not been collaborative. In fact, I have identified several examples were I reached out to collaborate with others; therefore, it would help me to better integrate your feedback if you could give me a specific example or two so that I might better understand what you are seeing or not seeing in my behavior.” (Remember, feedback is usually about behaviors you are engaging in but you might also be getting feedback about behaviors you are not doing – and people aren’t always great at distinguishing the two.)
The goal is to get concrete examples so that you can understand more fully what they are talking about. One coaching client came to us because her performance review was completely out of sync with how she thought of herself. She said that her boss had accused her of “sabotaging” his efforts as a leader – something she had no knowledge of doing. As she prepared for the meeting, she needed to step back from her angry reaction to the feedback and identify the information she needed to gather to fully understand his feedback. She asked for concrete examples and discovered that while she was nodding to acknowledge that she was listening, he saw her as nodding in agreement with his perspective. Later, when she circled back with a different perspective on the topic of conversation, he felt confused and undermined since he had seen her nodding in agreement. With coaching, she was able to work with her boss to successfully correct a (non-verbal) miscommunication. Going forward, she was much more thoughtful about her non-verbal behaviors and would check in frequently to make certain they had a shared understanding.
Take time now to review the feedback you have been given, explore what you do and don’t agree with, and prepare for how to get more information in those areas where you find yourself confused. Next time, we’ll talk about some of the specifics of having the follow-up meeting and how to prepare for the unexpected.