Getting–and giving– feedback is intimidating, thanks to the negative stigma. In reality, feedback means CARING. Whether you’re providing or receiving (from above or below), think of it as an opportunity for everybody involved to communicate, improve, and grow. Dr. Therese Huston shares tips and tricks from handling digital conversations to why we dread feedback in the first place.
Listen to the full episode here
Who is Dr. Therese Huston?
As her website so succinctly puts, Therese Huston is a thought leader, a public speaker, and a consultant. And an EXPERT on feedback. Her most recent book, Let’s Talk, dives into the ins and outs, serving as a survival guide for anyone who, well, works with anyone!
We were stoked to have Therese on with us for an episode about specifically the negative connotation towards feedback. How to overcome it and utilize it as a tool for growth, and why it deserves a much more positive response were our top priorities during our chat. We’re so grateful to Dr. Huston for joining us at Almost 30 to discuss how the workplace conversations that occur on a daily basis can be more beneficial for everyone involved, erasing the feedback stigma.
In This Post You Will Learn
- How remote work changes the feedback dynamic
- Why digital conversations should be handled differently
- What are some tips for managers, and reporting down as well as up
- How to handle assessments about a person versus about their work
- Why we dread receiving feedback
Okay, we’ll admit it–we really wanted to chat with Dr. Therese Huston. Her research hits home for us, as we have already learned so much about feedback dynamics in the workplace, and how we can use these tools in our own positions here at Almost 30.
Giving good, positive feedback is a superpower. Giving responses continuously means that you care, instead of only doing so when something needs to be fixed. But knowing how to share your thoughts when change does need to be made? That’s just as important.
To start, we talked about the negativity bias: this notion that we pay better attention to, and remember more, the negative feedback. Huston discusses how to handle this, the importance of focusing on the good as well as the not-so-good, setting the precedent for feedback conversations, and verbalizing praise more.
Dr. Therese Huston shares some steps for how to approach giving feedback:
(From, say, a management perspective)
- State your good intentions. Is this report going to be looked at by one of your higher ups? Tell your employee that! Help them understand why you’re eager to make sure it’s ready.
- Start with praise. Don’t dismiss the feedback sandwich! Beginning a conversation on a high note prompts your employee to be more receptive to what comes next, as they now feel they are being heard. And ending the discussion on a positive note is never a bad idea, leave them feeling better, rather than worse.
- Clarify and contrast. To avoid the recipient misunderstanding the takeaway from a conversation, make clear what you meant–and what you didn’t mean. I’m saying I need you to double check this; I’m not saying that I don’t trust you.
Now, let’s talk digital feedback.
Over the past few years, remote work has become more widespread, and in many cases, looks to stay that way.
This introduces some obstacles to feedback dynamics. Conversations feel less personal, more distant. And how do you know when a conversation should be an email, a phone call, or a Zoom?
Dr. Therese Huston has a clear route for which approach to take. When your feedback is about the person’s work, go ahead and email. If your feedback is about the person themself, consider a phone call, where you can chat more personally. Or a Zoom, where something more personal won’t be interrupted by a pet or a child onscreen.
Before an employee blows a comment out of proportion, a more interactive conversation lends itself better to understanding where a comment is coming from than just reading it off a screen.
So let’s get down to it. Why DO we hate feedback? The truth is, our identity is so intertwined with our work. Which is why, when giving feedback, keep this in mind: Focus on siding with the person, not the problem.
Make clear that you are on the same team; you’re with them, not against them. You two can work together to combat the problem. Siding with the person lets the recipient of your feedback know that you are there for them, to brainstorm approaches for tackling this issue. This fosters the more personal aspect, while combatting that pesky negativity bias.
Whether you need to physically sit on the same side of the table as them while together looking over some reports, or simply verbally stating that you want to work as a team to combat this issue, make your stance clear. It is you + them against the problem, not the other way around.
Huston also dives into how to handle feedback for shorter-term relationships, how to foster feedback up, and how to integrate all this moving forward.
You’d think shorter term relationships don’t require as much feedback, right? Actually, they can be some of the most worthwhile opportunities for doing so! If you’ve got a contract employee who won’t be around long term, don’t let that stop you from sharing your thoughts on their work. For them, they need to hear it. For you, it’s great practice for feedback conversations with more long-term work relationships.
To integrate feedback conversations moving forward, be sure to foster giving feedback UP. It’s always easier to give feedback up if you’ve been given permission to give feedback up, Therese says.
By not only letting your employees know that you are open to receiving feedback, but encouraging them to share their thoughts with you, you’re opening a feedback loop. Ask for their feedback. Tell them you want it! Because you do. You need it as much as they do.
And if your employer doesn’t prompt this conversation, you go right ahead! See if they’d like you to provide feedback for a project along the way, or if they’d prefer you keep it to yourself. Odds are, they’d rather hear your thoughts than not. Come on, wouldn’t you?
When prompting a feedback conversation up, give them an out. “I can see you’ve got a lot on your plate right now. Would it be helpful to have some feedback? Or is now not the right time?” (Hint: At some point, you should really ask me for my feedback!)
Not only should conversations should be all-inclusive, they should be far more frequent.
- Don’t only reach out for a discussion when something is wrong
- Do check in more frequently, for praise and areas for improvement
If you’ve only gotten the “We should talk” kind of message when something is up, that’s all you’re going to expect going forward. Any kind of conversation will be met with stress, anxiety, and foreboding, based on last time’s negative review. And for good reason! But this does not foster a healthy conversation about improvement.
Reaching out to check in more frequently means that not all feedback conversations are bad things! Some are for praise, some are opportunities for a feedback exchange, and some are just check ins. And yes, some are about areas to strive for improvement. But normalizing these conversations by balancing them out with others encourages better communication–and thus, better results.
Feedback is for becoming better leaders, teammates, bosses, and friends. It’s a superpower. And with great power comes great responsibility. If you want to learn more about mastering the candor and cadence to feedback, listen to our full episode with Dr. Therese Huston and check out her book, Let’s Talk.