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.
This week Sara is joined by Khaliah who is a Director of Policy at a Health System and a Professor of Nursing. They talk about the preparation of providing feedback to others to level set a crucial or critical conversation. Being upfront, candid and very clear so feedback is not a journey of surprise. Subscribe to the podcast today!
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 for the podcast today, Khaliah. She's a director of policy at a health system and a professor of nursing. Welcome to the conversation today.
Khaliah: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Sara: Absolutely. Well, 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?
Khaliah: I cringe. That is the first thing that I do if it's coming my way. I cringe and try to anticipate like, okay, what did I do wrong? What are they going to tell me? And I'm replaying a million scenarios in my head and probably have no idea what you're really trying to say.
Sara: Hmm. It's like preparation for something terrible coming your way. When you're thinking about that, you touched on when it's coming my way. Do you prefer to be the giver or the receiver of feedback?
Khaliah: No, probably I prefer to be the giver right now. I think honestly, as I grow, I might prefer to be the receiver of feedback. And what I mean by that is sometimes when you are in leadership positions and you expand in leadership positions, a lot of times people are listening to you or you're doing the talking, you're giving the feedback, but you may not have as many opportunities to hear where you can improve or where you can get feedback and learn and grow. So right now, I think I'm still in a space where I have a lot of leaders and maybe I get more feedback. But I believe it may change in the future.
Sara: And when you're thinking about providing that feedback, how do you open the conversation for when you're sitting in the giver's seat?
Khaliah: That's a good question. It does depend on the type of feedback that I may need to provide. So typically, I open in the conversation just by saying, "Hello, how are you doing?" I'm trying to check in. If it is that I need to provide feedback that is going to be uncomfortable or going to be maybe difficult, I'm typically after saying hello, trying to understand how someone feels. I would open it up or lead by saying, I need to have a conversation with you that may be difficult to hear. Or I need to have a conversation that you may... I need to say something that you may not like.
So those are some of the ways that I try to level set what I'm trying to tell you that it's not, "Hey, you're going to get a promotion today." It's maybe a difficult or crucial or critical conversation. I was told before by someone that if you're always trying to just be positive and sound happy and then you're saying, "Hey, how are you doing? That's great. I love your t-shirt. And now I need to tell you that you're doing a terrible job today," that it's off-putting or it's confusing to people. So just trying to open it up to make it clear this is a conversation that's a little bit serious and it might be difficult. So just trying to preface it in that way.
Sara: And I really hear in that example you're providing, it's upfront, it's candid, and it's very clear. Like, I need to have a conversation with you and here's what it's going to be about before we even start. Right? So there's no guessing. There's no secret. I mean, they don't know exactly what you're going to say, but it's not a surprise in the same way of not knowing the journey of the conversation, you know?
Khaliah: I've had a boss in the past who we would always joke as a group, like, "Oh, they have a poker face. They have a poker face." You never know if it's going to be good or if it's going to be bad. And so in some ways, that's a skill to have a poker face, but in other ways, when you're on the receiving end, you're like, "Okay, I was just told that you're doing a good job. I want you to present at a conference." And then other times it's, "Hey, do you know you said or you did this?" So it not always having that lead in is where I've tried to recognize as an opportunity to just try to level set so someone isn't so panicked.
Sara: Yeah, I love that you're bringing up this like poker face mentality. I often hear from folks like, oh, I'm trying to remove emotion from work or I'm trying to remove the feelings for the process. And I'm like, well, those are things that we use to help talk to each other and gauge a conversation and understand. I mean, it's the difference between either face-to-face and virtual and being on the phone or being on text or being on email.
These are context clues that we need from other people. And if we're just not even getting them, what's the point of being in person if you're not going to provide some of those cues to other folks? I'm curious, if people could do one thing better regarding feedback, what would it be?
Khaliah: Sara, that's a great question. Some of what I've learned or even observed is that it's good to give timely and specific feedback. For example, if something happened two months ago, well, bringing it up two months later is not timely. I'm likely going to have forgotten it and then I'm going to start looking at you strange like, why didn't you tell me that a long time ago? Or how long have I been making this mistake and you've said nothing?
And then being specific. I can't stress this enough just even in my role as a faculty member evaluating students and their papers or on the receiving end, recently completed my PhD. You have to be specific. If you're vague, no one knows what you're talking about.
Say exactly, be explicit in what it is that needs to be corrected, what it is that should be stated or explained more clearly so that you have very clear direction around the issue or the opportunity or what you're striving to improve. So I think just being timely and being specific is one of the things that I've learned from.
Sara: And I was just going to ask, do you think some of that comes from your experience on the floor as a nurse? Like, you can't tell me about a patient two months ago or a line I did three hours ago. Like, I need to know now. I'm wondering how that's played in for you. Obviously, you're not on the floor right now in the same capacity, but that's a very direct time, and maybe is as you are a professor now, that in the moment education.
Khaliah: Absolutely. I think so much of it comes from working in direct patient care because you do need to know immediately like, did something go wrong? When I was teaching clinicals, I would often tell students, the only time I'm going to stop you immediately is if what you are doing is going to cause harm to a patient. But beyond that, I'm going to tell you at the end of class or the end of the day, or before this week in clinical is over exactly where you could have improved.
But especially a serious patient safety issue or an issue that is a practice issue, they're going to go and start working with someone else and possibly make the same mistake. So it's a good point. I probably didn't even think about it until you said that.
But that's definitely a part of the culture of being an educator in health care is trying to make sure people know right away and exactly what the issue is, very much so relevant in the world of health care.
Sara: I'm curious, Khaliah, when you're thinking about either as a leader, director of public policy, or even in your role as a professor, or all the other spaces, how do you help your team or the teams that you're supervising or organization, how do you encourage them to share feedback with themselves?
Khaliah: I would say for my team, I encourage them to be open to feedback. Particular because we're trying to manage policies for a large health system. We get a lot of credit for things that we've done exceptionally well. But then we get feedback as well from people who are saying, hey, I don't like this about what you've done, or I don't like how this is worded. I don't like something.
When you're so used to people praising you all the time, it can be more difficult to hear that someone has something else to say. I've been involved in the League of Women Voters for a number of years and one of the things that we try to do in that organization is to respect the minority opinion or acknowledge the minority opinion, meaning that even if the majority agrees or thinks that we're doing a great job, there is a minority opinion here that you need to listen to and figure out what do you do with it.
And so I think for myself and my team, I tried to say like, we need to hear what others have to say. We have mechanisms for them to give us feedback. We need to evaluate it. And then we figure out what we're going to do with it. You can't do everything with the minority opinion because you still have to work with the majority opinion or the biggest project. But it doesn't mean that it's inaccurate. It doesn't mean it's invalid. It doesn't mean that there's not a place for it.
But we can't get bogged down with it. We can't get upset by it. We just have to learn how to put that feedback in its proper place. And then a way that I think is still positive, where I'm the director of policy, we have like a rewards and recognition system where anyone can just say, hey team member, you helped me with the problem. Thank you. I want to share this feedback with you or I want to share it with your leaders. And that's one way that they receive feedback also. And we do a lot in our department to just uplift and celebrate like, hey, someone sent you an appreciation award or recognition. So those are some of the ways that I try to encourage feedback in addition to the annual evaluation process and our weekly one-on-one meetings.
Sara: And I love that you're sharing that there's a frequency component, but stopping to acknowledge it, right? Someone took the time to give the feedback, whether or not it's aligned with, again, the majority view, they still provided it. And so let's recognize it, let's acknowledge it, and take time for it because sometimes it's easier just to be like, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I'm great. Or yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I need to work on that but... And you're like, no, no, let's take a moment. So I really appreciate that. For our last question in our time together, can I offer you some feedback?
Khaliah: The cringe. But yes, please. I welcome it.
Sara: Hopefully, the cringe is not long-lasting. What are the things that I've really appreciated? And we've been in session together, we've chatted together, had a number of different spaces with each other. And one of the things I've really appreciated from you, and even hearing you talk today is the system perspective that you bring to any conversation. Understanding the structures, understanding the key players, the influences that are occurring. And even when prior working in your capacity, working closely with joint commission, when they would come to the health system, that's a systems orientation. Yes, they're picking on pieces, but you want to be able to see what's underlying, right? What is really what we're trying to improve?
Again, I love that you touched on this today, the explicit act of being an educator and providing that clear, specific, timely communication, it's all about, you know, and this is a healthcare term, but right place, right time, right person. Making sure we're providing the right care. But I see you exhibiting that same mentality that again we typically see in a clinical setting, but in your leadership and in the way that you approach the work. It's the same fundamentals that I'm hearing you articulate just in a different setting.
And I'm sure that with the work you've been doing, I hope your colleagues are able to see that. I hope the folks who you impact with the changes that you're making and the growth that the group is trying to do, I hope that they're able to see it. I know I've been appreciative of it and I hope that continues for you.
Khaliah: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate that and I hope to continue making an impact. I definitely appreciate your feedback.
Sara: Well, Khaliah, 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 can 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.