Sep 26 2019| Leadership

All Feedback is a Gift - Really?

Is all feedback good feedback?

by Kaaren Welsby Associate

In our work with those seeking to advance their leadership potential and connect with their emotional intelligence, we are frequently asked how to deal with feedback – both giving and receiving it. We are often told that “all feedback is a gift” – but is it? Really?

Key to personal growth

We often feel intensely uncomfortable when faced with the task of giving feedback – especially when it might embody elements of coaching, or highlight perceived blind spots, as well as perceived strengths.

It is sometimes just as challenging to deliver positive feedback – and perhaps equally uncomfortable to receive great feedback in return. But feedback is actually a key to personal reflection – and a vital aid to personal growth. It is only through recognising and acknowledging our blindspots as well as our strengths that we can gain valuable emotional intelligence and move forward.

Data can help

The use of human data will bring much-needed objectivity, precision – and unexpected depth - to this often difficult process.  When Leaders commit to working alongside you and your business, the assessments that you undertake will serve to illuminate your uniqueness as an individual - the way that you think about yourself, the ways in which you interact with others and the values that guide you. These insights are incisive and clean - gained from data - and yet they go far beyond this in their ability to highlight passion and purpose. This knowledge can transform relationships - and the way in which we give and receive feedback - for good.

Feedback for long-term change

Do you remember specific good and bad feedback (we often read ‘criticism’ for feedback) over the years?

We can hold on to both the positive and negative for years to come, using it to shape our perceptions of ourselves.

I think back specifically to a teacher’s handwritten note of advice when I was applying for university (which I still have, 33 years later). It said: ‘just smile and be yourself’. I also think of instances incorporating more incisive feedback which changed my whole approach.

A mirror for self-reflection

Feedback can often prompt us to reflect on how we appear to others and how good it is to be jolted out of the comfortable grooves in which we habitually run.

Having a mirror held up to us, perhaps unexpectedly, can often cause a jolt of shock, but also of recognition. And that is where the self-reflection, and real learning, takes place. We may experience a feeling of discomfort and vulnerability, but part of us may also recognise some truth embedded within the feedback. When we become aware of our blind spots, we come face to face with how others perceive us, and we are prompted to address these areas.

How to receive feedback well:

  • Be open-minded when receiving feedback
  • Consciously try not to feel exposed or criticised
  • Remember to not react immediately. We should aim to evaluate feedback slowly.
  • Remind yourself that the individual giving the feedback may have a useful perspective for us
  • Ask yourself the often tricky questions – does the feedback seem true? Is it something that you already knew was a limitation?

Be mindful

The advice is always to be mindful. We are guided to develop awareness around the areas touched on in feedback – and to seek opportunities to either stop or start doing certain behaviours that have been highlighted to us.

We indeed grow most when we are placed in uncomfortable or stressful situations. While we are habitually taught to get rid of difficult emotions, the challenge may be to acknowledge them, to sit with and ‘welcome them home’ as an essential part of what makes us unique.

There is often immense stretch and growth as a result of acknowledging areas where we feel intense discomfort. But if we can begin to understand and become familiar with these feelings, then this is when we can increase our self-awareness and enhance our emotional intelligence as leaders. The ability to incorporate feedback - and to welcome it as a gift - will ultimately build both resilience and the capacity to lead others with purpose - and with real humility.

Contact us to discuss how we can help you and your business to flourish.

About The Author | Kaaren Welsby

Dr Kaaren Welsby is a charismatic communicator and academic achiever with 20 years of front-facing military, education and training experience. She is energetic and creative, with the ability to motivate and inspire others. Kaaren possesses a first class BA (Honours) degree in English Literature, an MA (Honours) degree in the written word and the visual imagination and a PhD in English Literature and Art History. She also has a PGCE in secondary English teaching. Kaaren is a Major in the British Army Reserves; she has undertaken two operational tours and is a trained media officer. She has worked extensively in the field of army recruitment, education and programme delivery, before becoming an education adviser for the Army Officer Selection Board, part of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst group. She now specialises in the educational and psychological assessment of potential army officer candidates. Kaaren has a breadth of experience in working with people from a variety of backgrounds, including intensive one-to-one support for young people in education and care. She is an experienced coach, assisting others to fulfil both their personal and professional potential.

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