What are you really like at getting feedback?

October 8th, 2011 by Douglas McEncroe · No Comments · Personal Development

I recently received some feedback about certain aspects of and intervention I did for a client. My client basically told me that there was a part of the session that wasn’t achieving the reaction they were looking for and so they asked me to take a look at it and to see if I couldn’t make some changes. Thinking back to this incident the most interesting aspect wasn’t in fact the feedback in itself but rather my reaction to it and what that means with regards to my ability to truly add value to my clients.

It is true that the feedback wasn’t actually all that representative as only about 12% of the participants had filled out the evaluations, and only some of them expressed doubt about the effectiveness of this particular part of the intervention. My first reaction was to cling to this statistic like a man clinging to a floating object after his ship had just sunk. I also pointed out that what participants like most in a course isn’t necessarily what they will later get the most benefit from.  However, although these two observations may well be quite valid, they actually got in the way of me listening to the reasonable concerns of my client and of my trying to do something about them.

Thoughts and Feelings

Having had more time now to think about my initial reaction what I find most interesting is the thinking behind them and the emotions that this thinking produced:

Isn’t the number of evaluations received too small to reach these conclusions? Anger

They don’t understand what they really need. Arrogance

They don’t appreciate a truly profound methodology. Smugness

They don’t appreciate all that I am doing for them. Self pity

What is useful is to understand what is your true attitude to receiving feedback from your clients or you colleagues. Are you really open to it? Do you consider it a necessary evil that you have to put up with so that you can give the impression that you are flexible, a great supplier who wants to improve when in reality it annoys you having to make changes in your way of working, or, do you truly see it as chance to understand how your client ticks, what he needs, what he values and as a chance to make some changes that can really give him more value. If it is the second, what you are seeing is a great opportunity to be more competitive, and in this current business climate, that can’t be bad.

Some thoughts on receiving feedback

  • Before you get feedback reflect sincerely on what is your overall attitude to receiving it and ask yourself if this attitude is helping you or not.
  • Don’t take feedback personally. This is not easy because it seems like it is about you. In reality it is only about something that you have done and that you could quite easily do in another way.
  • Think about what it would mean to you and to your clients to improve the services or products that you offer them.
  • When you start to get defensive about some feedback, recognize what is happening to you, intervene in your thinking before it starts to generate negative feelings that could lead to some action that is probably not going to help you.

I believe that clients who give you honest feedback and who are clear about the gap between what they are expecting and what you are giving them are a treasure that you need to value. If you listen to them and act on what they are saying the results are probably going to be pretty good for everyone. To do this however, just like with other areas of leadership, you need good doses of humility.


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