For Those Who Have A Complicated Relationship With Feedback

Sara Ismail-Beigi Bartlett speaks with guests about their ideas, perspectives, and best practices regarding feedback. For some, this process can be alarming, but it is essential and a key basis for improvement.

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Creating Trusting Relationships for Meaningful Feedback

Welcome to the podcast! The first guest we have is product developer and director of engineering, Alison. In this episode we talk with her about meaningful feedback and approaching relationships constructively. Feedback provides effective criticism that offers actionable recommendations for success.

What's your initial reaction when I say the phrase, “Can I Offer You Some Feedback"? People tend to have a negative first reaction when hearing this. Think about how you approach feedback in your everyday life. We must create a space for feedback, not only at the professional level but also in personal settings.

When approaching this conversation it is key to put yourself in another person's shoes to come from an authentic place. This can create a two way dialogue that is rooted in the actual event. Alison shares her approach to feedback and how she is able to connect with people in order for them to be themselves. Subscribe today so you never miss an episode!

Sara:

Welcome to, Can I Offer You Some Feedback? My name is Sara, and this is the podcast for those who have a complicated relationship with feedback and are looking to hear from real people across levels and industries with their ideas, perspectives, and best practices on feedback. Before we dive in, I'd like to introduce our guest today on the podcast, Alison. She's a product development wizard and a director of engineering. Thanks for joining the conversation today.

Alison:

Thanks Sara.

Sara:

So let's kick things off with the main question of the podcast. When I say the phrase, "Can I offer you some feedback?" What's your gut reaction when you hear that?

Alison:

Yeah, my honest gut reaction, Sara, is to cringe a little, I think no one likes feedback, but I do then that quick second reaction is, okay, feedback is good. It will help me grow. And so approach is in a really positive way, Alison, listen intently and get the most out of it. But I have to be honest with you, that first reaction is a bit of a cringe.

Sara:

Why do you think that is? Why do you think you have that negative first reaction?

Alison:

Oh, that's a great question. As humans, maybe we think we have it all figured out and don't want anyone else to tell us otherwise. I wish I approached feedback and just took it right away and accepted it like a gift. But for some reason it just takes more effort to listen and hear it and have that humble acceptance of it.

Sara:

Sounds like you're leading right into my next question. Thinking about, it sounds I won't step you into it, but do you prefer to be the giver or the receiver of feedback?

Alison:

I actually like to be the giver of feedback, and I think that's because it's so hard to take feedback. But I feel like I have established an honest two-way communication with many of my direct reports. And so that has allowed it to come much more naturally. From the start of our relationship I really try to set that expectation of let's give each other feedback. This is a two-way street. I want to hear it too, but I also want to give you timely, effective feedback so that you can be successful in your job. And by establishing that upfront, it has been so much more natural that I could just kind of pull someone aside in a easy way, in a timely way after a situation happened, both for positive feedback and which is awesome as well as constructive feedback. To say, hey, I noticed in this meeting, what happened here and how this person reacted? What are your thoughts? How can we change this? Or even be more constructive than that?

Sara:

Yeah. I love that idea of having that two way dialogue and not making it just about the other person or just about ourselves. How can it be this dialogue that we're bringing forward. When you're thinking about feedback, how do you define meaningful feedback?

Alison:

I think meaningful feedback is when you really understand the whole situation, it's that holistic view that you've put yourself in their shoes and other people's shoes to not just be one sided in the feedback and so that it can come from a really authentic natural place. And then I think meaningful feedback really is rooted in being timely, being able to be as specific as possible.

So I noticed in this situation where there's a place and a time where this happened, so in this meeting and then what was that behavior. I saw that you reacted this way and then that impact in other people. So if you can really connect it, make it fact based, is isn't emotions coming out. It's not just my opinion, but something where they're really rooted in that actual event and can kind of see it, replay it for themselves. And so that they're on the same page with you of that situation. And then hoping that I think meaningful feedback also has to really come from a place of where you want them to grow and be the best they can be, and not from a place of pure criticism or maliciousness or whatnot. It's really got to be out of helping them be successful, remove the roadblocks in their way.

Sara:

Absolutely. Yeah. I love that idea on that specificity and also in support of that other person. I'm wondering if you can share perhaps an experience that comes to mind where you've seen that meaningful feedback delivered, that concrete example?

Alison:

I have an employee and where we have set up this relationship where we can give each other feedback. And he does a really nice job of asking for it, which helps me feel really comfortable giving it as well. And so there was a situation where he had this response to any suggestion or changed the plan as a no. There wasn't a maybe, or let me hear you out. It was a no, and he didn't mean it to come off as shutting someone down, but that's how it felt to the other person. And you could see this other person get pretty defensive and in front of a larger team and group put her on the defensive and not kind of a good situation. So I was able recognize that everyone had to let their emotions cool down. And I think it's really important to give feedback when you're in a very stable, calm, emotional state. But to then bring him back in a timely way and just say, hey, I noticed in this meeting, instead of saying, I heard you out, I hear what you're saying.

Let me think about it. Or that's a idea we can consider, or even maybe you directly went to know which caused this reaction. And it was just a really great conversation because he recognized that too. He recognized that something didn't go right there and we could address it because we had this open and honest conversation and relationship as well as could come to it in a timely way. It wasn't directly afterwards, but in a way enough that then it didn't feel like weeks or months later, but he could address it and then even build on that relationship he had with that person.

Sara:

I really hear in that story, the relationship component. The trust that had been built beforehand, the dialogue that you had already set up, it wasn't just a cold encounter, a brand new person you're working with trying to give them and have that conversation with them. Really you've built up the space to have that conversation. And that might have been one of the differentiators in being able to really connect with them and have them hear it a little bit differently. So I love that you're highlighting that. If you're thinking about people and if you had a wish, maybe it's a new manager, maybe it's someone starting on your team or just in general, what's maybe one wish that you have of one thing that people could do better regarding feedback. What would that be?

Alison:

I think it does boil down for me about relationships, as you pointed out. And so that really approaching relationships, very constructively saying from the start, I'm here to listen. Maybe even it's telling yourself I'm not going to be defensive, because I recognize that I can do that right away if I hear some negative feedback about myself or my team, it's natural to get defensive. But to say, I know that the reason why people are giving me feedback is they want me to do better. They want me to be successful just like the same way I approach them. So it's coming out of a place of good and growth, and that I just need to see it that way. And so be in that kind of positive head space as well as saying, I want this to make our relationship stronger, not hurt us.

Sara:

Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing that. So for our last question and our time together, Alison, can I offer you some feedback?

Alison:

Sure.

Sara:

Great. I wanted to share, I've observed with you, especially in the stories that you shared throughout today. You seem to have a real gift around creating space and environments in which people can feel comfortable in sharing with you. Whether it's constructive or positive or supportive or even critical, creating the environment where that other person feels that they can share in their space with you. I think that coupled with, you mentioned, this focus on relationships, I feel like as what you've shared today and also knowing you, we really take the time to invest in relationships. Invest and build that foundation, build the structure there so that not only have I created the space for us to have that conversation, but we've got that trust.

We've got that relationship already developed, and you know, and you can believe in what I'm saying and sharing with you. So these are two things that I think are really special gifts that you have. I know you currently use them in your work. That's one of the reasons you've been so successful in that work. But would love to continue to see you sharing that with other people and providing the space in which for them to be able to be their best. So that's my feedback for you today.

Alison:

Thanks Sara. That's great feedback. That was great to hear.

Sara:

Well, Alison, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. And thanks to you for joining us in another episode of, Can I Offer You Some Feedback? You could reach me at [email protected] We would love to hear from you on your thoughts on feedback or any other perspectives you'd like to hear from next. As always, give us a quick rating on your platform of choice and share this podcast with a friend. And I'm hoping that tomorrow, you take a chance and offer some feedback when it's needed most. Can I offer you some feedback is a production of Evergreen Podcasts, hosted by me, Sara Ismail-Beigi Bartlett. Our production team includes Nijah Golliday, Hannah Rae Leach, and Gray Longfellow. We'll see you next time.

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