3 Pitfalls To Avoid When Giving Feedback

Today I want to talk once again about feedback – as many of you know, I believe feedback is the most effective, least expensive management tool we have at our fingertips.

Yet, so many of us avoid it.

Many leaders avoid engaging in the process of feedback with their own team members. They often speak to a fear of hurting others’ feelings, or rocking the boat – but all that comes from a lack of trust that the team is working in a supportive environment…

So let’s explore how to create an organizational culture where trust and respect is the norm… a culture built through open, direct and honest communication…

…and yes, forthright exchange of feedback.

I am not suggesting that exchanging feedback and moving forward together through honest communication is always an easy thing to do.

There are three pitfalls on this path that even the most committed students of leadership development can fall into. Let’s explore a couple of them…


Three Feedback Pitfalls To Avoid

Feedback Pitfall #1
: Giving Unedited Thoughts As Feedback

Yes. Be open, direct and honest… but what does that look like? Does it mean just saying what’s on your mind without any filter?

If we want our honesty, directness and openness to have an impact, then how we express ourselves is just as important as what we have to say.

Therefore prioritize your communication style to the same degree that you prioritize the feedback itself.

To put it another way: come from a place of good intention. A place that looks for what the feedback recipient is doing well, and what everyone can be doing better.

This sort of feedback comes from a place of wanting to support and truly build up other members of the team.


Feedback Pitfall #2: Taking It Personally When Receiving Feedback


If we want to benefit from others’ feedback, how we receive feedback is very important.

Don’t take things so personally.

That is sometimes easier said than done.

If I do initially take it personally, I make sure to move past that before evaluating the merits of the feedback. If the feedback hits a nerve, there is probably something there for me to learn – so I don’t want to just discount it because I think the other person made it personal.

Here’s a strategy I use when receiving feedback:

I am careful not to judge the feedback I receive.

I don’t look to agree or disagree with it. I look to see what I can learn from it.  After really assessing it, if I don’t think it applies to me, I still look to see what I might be doing that causes someone else to see me that way.

For example: 

I’m a shy person. When I enter a room, I tend to remain at the periphery, instead of jumping into the middle of the crowd to chat and socialize. In the past people have perceived my shy behavior as aloofness or arrogance.

When I received that feedback, it didn’t feel great… but with a focus on learning from it, I was able to grasp that my behavior was creating an impression among my peers. An impression of aloofness. While it wasn’t the truth, I learned that I needed to make a greater effort to connect with others.

When I decided to listen and learn from the feedback, I was able to make changes to the way I engaged with people in the workplace. And things changed for the better…

But if I had taken it personally, I might have lost an opportunity to be a more effective leader and ally to my teammates.


Feedback Pitfall #3: The Rumor Mill


The rumor mill is a power play for those engaging in it… and it can spread through an organization like a cancer.

The best way to quash the rumor mill is through direct, honest and open feedback.

If I am hearing indirect feedback (i.e. the rumor mill), I will reach out to others that might have a sense of where it is coming from. My aim is never to get to the source of the rumor mill for retribution, but to draw out the unspoken feedback that gave rise to the rumor mill. Then we can have a discussion about the issue out in the open, where it belongs.

This open communication is essential to developing a trusting environment.

So, to recap the 3 pitfalls to avoid when exchanging feedback:

1) Be sure not to just dump your feedback on others – just because you are delivering it, doesn’t mean it is true.

2) Don’t take feedback personally – there may be a valuable lesson there for you to learn.

3) Get the feedback out in the open and squash the rumor mill.

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