Feedback is a gift, get the most out of it

By | November 5, 2014

Feedback keeps you sharp.  All professionals should be thankful for authentic and well-meaning feedback. It’s a way to gauge our performance, impact, and influence. Good or bad feedback is useful, when it comes from someone we respect. Companies pay $millions to research what their customers are thinking, and yet, as consultants we often get feedback for free. We ask our clients and our partners:

  • How do you think that went?
  • I was thinking about ABC approach, what are your thoughts?
  • Do you think we should run it by XYZ, or is it okay to send out by ourselves?
  • How do you think Jackie is doing?  Any feedback for her?

Consultantsmind - Consulting Blog Feedback

It can hurt. Consultants are used to being top-performers. A whole generation of millennials grew up getting huge trophies for small feats (yes, I said it) and love to be at the top of the list. Hearing that you were average is tough to hear. Too often, feedback is given at the wrong time, or in the wrong way. It’s not communicated in a spirit of improvement, but more in frustration or chastisement. Not good

Great firms expect a lot from their people. Working nights and weekends are common because we do not want to disappoint our clients or our peers. As managers, we need to let our people know what we expect. They might be thinking consultant-level work, when we are thinking of them as a manager-candidate.

Give yourself feedback. There are probably 3 things you do everyday that are great (should keep doing), and 3 things you need to improve (stop doing). In many ways, you don’t even need anyone to tell you. Tell yourself. For me, my 3 points of self-feedback:

  • Pick up the phone when making logistics / meeting plans; email is bad
  • When on a conference call, waiting for other people to join, don’t chit-chat at all
  • Acknowledge people (good job) with their bosses; I sent 3 “good job” emails today

It requires trust. I give feedback to my teams daily. Some is minor – “good job” on the powerpoint. Some is major – “this is only 30% complete”. For me (only 1 consultant talking), you have to create a climate of trust where people feel safe speaking honestly about good and bad things.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”  – Theodore Roosevelt

Don’t take it personally. If a jerk gives your “feedback”, store it in a mental filing cabinet, and lock it away. Does not apply to you. You place value (high or low) on the feedback depending on your respect for the person.

Some people are dense. There are some people who don’t get it. Yes, when I said that, someone’s face popped into your head. Yes, that person. Yes, some people. . no matter how many different ways you tell them they need to improve, they don’t get it.

When you find a consultant who say they are not getting enough feedback on their performance, two things are probably happening. Their manager is a bit of a coward, too afraid to be authentic and tell them anything AND the person is not listening.

Reality check: if you get multiple data points of feedback on the same topic. . . that is a trend and it’s very possible YOU are the problem.  Don’t be the dense one.

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4 thoughts on “Feedback is a gift, get the most out of it

  1. Julie Davis (@JulieJDavisVA)

    Very true! Feedback is so important, and you do have to consider the source and their intentions. When it’s given from a place of love and respect, meant to help you and make you better and what you do, then it is certainly welcomed! When it comes from a place of frustration or anger, it is harder to take it at face value. Even if it is someone you trust/respect, make sure you have “calmed” down before giving feedback with the wrong attitude ;-P

  2. lewsauder

    Your comments about millennials, while perhaps not popular, were accurate. It also applies to other generations that don’t like to receive negative feedback. I’ve always preferred the sandwich method, regardless of the generation I’m talking to: You did great at . Here is something I’d like you to work on. I also thought you did great at . Everybody should realize that they aren’t perfect. There should always be something they can work on to improve.

    1. consultantsmind Post author

      Yes, completely agree. Sandwich works well – after all, we are just people and like to be complimented too. Agree, so much to improve. Attitudinal, I like people who are growing and constantly improving. Arrogance is a huge turn off.

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