Feedback - An act of trust

Feedback - An act of trust

Feedback - An act of trust

November 11, 2014

Feedback – an act of Trust


In a gentle way you can shake the world.


One determining factor of the effectiveness of our leadership is the quality of the conversations we have with our people, and a determining factor of the quality of those conversations is the level of trust that exists in those relationships.  How important it is, therefore, to foster and nourish trust in all of our relationships. 

This, perhaps, feels easy to accomplish when everything else in the workplace is going smoothly, when the most difficult conversations we need to have revolve around whose turn it is to get the coffee.  But how do we retain our integrity, mutual respect and ease in relationships when we discover a need to have conversations of a different, perhaps more challenging nature? 

How do we say the things that need saying and shake up the things that need shaking in a gentle and compassionate way?

Amongst the conversations that we frequently hear cause some angst are those that involve the giving, and receiving, of feedback.

This is a rather richer and more complex topic than is often acknowledged – and to not only ‘get it right’ but to make the best use of it involves a real understanding of a number of other ideas – things like creative cause and projection.    We’ll likely jump deeper into those topics at another time – but I can’t imagine a useful conversation about feedback without at least referencing those ideas.  The opportunity to give, and/or receive, feedback is always an opportunity to grow, evolve and create better relationship – why would we not want to get really good at this so that we can make the most of these opportunities whenever they arise?

There are, broadly, two types of feedback that we talk about:

  • Feedback for the purpose of growth of the recipient or the relationship
  • Feedback that is literally feeding back into the system information about how you experience something – sometimes, but not necessarily, with an accompanying hope that a change will occur as a result of the conversation.

These two types of feedback are very different things.  They are not interchangeable, and we need to be very clear which we are using and what the intended outcome is.  Whichever situation you find yourself in there is some important preparatory thinking that can help you make the most of a feedback opportunity:

  • Remember that another’s behaviour is not necessarily ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ or ‘reactive’ simply because it triggers in you an uncomfortable, or unpleasant, or unfamiliar emotional or cognitive response.  Explore the possibility that your own projection is co-creating your response.
  • Separate your reaction from the trigger before you respond.  Doing so allows you to differentiate your own and others parts in the dance, giving you a clear and clean framework from which to communicate.
  • If you intend to deliver feedback as a result of feeling an emotional response to someone’s actions, remember that your emotion is a signal for you, not an endpoint and not the ‘fault’ of someone else.  The emotion is an alert that a belief has been activated, or that a need has been either met or left unmet.  It is a signpost – pointing us to a greater understanding of ourselves and our patterns and habits of thinking, feeling and behaving.  It is not, in and of itself, ‘proof’ of wrong-doing on the part of someone else.

Once you have cleared the way of any entanglements and confusion, you are ready to deliver a piece of feedback that might help yourself and someone else become even more effective.

Next month, look for some Feedback Rules of Engagement to support this process even further.

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