Feedback is information that can be used to improve your performance. In many cases, it highlights the gap between your intended behavior and the perception of your behavior by those around you. The larger the gap between your intended behavior and the perception of your behavior, the more difficult it becomes to give and receive feedback.
If you find yourself having a hard time receiving feedback, perhaps it is because you need to build your feedback muscle? If you have been surrounded by people who only give you positive feedback, or if you’re such a rock star that you never have anything to improve on, it’s only natural that your constructive feedback muscles are underdeveloped and therefore weak. You have to be in strong mental shape in order to handle constructive criticism. You have to be able to regulate the information coming in, control the emotions that emerge as a result, and manage your response to the sender in the moment. That is not easy to do.
Now many of you may say, duh, I know that! But as the saying goes, “It is easier said than done”. If your feedback muscles are weak, you will lack the stamina and strength that is needed to endure a difficult conversation which could end up hurting both your ego and your career. So let's build that feedback muscle up so that you are able to show up strong in those conversations.
Here are 3 simple tips to building your feedback muscle:
1. Solicit Feedback Weekly- Challenge yourself to ask one person per week what can you do to improve. Doing this will wire your brain to not only handle constructive feedback, but anticipate constructive feedback. For the workout buffs, you’ll go from just bench pressing the bar to adding the 5lbs, 10lbs, and soon 45lbs plates of feedback without breaking a sweat! Here are some questions that help garner feedback: “What’s 1 thing I can do to improve (x)..”, “If we could make this process better what would you suggest?”, “What are some areas that you feel could use some refinement?”, “How would you approach that same scenario?”. Being on the offense vs. the defense is much easier when it comes to feedback. You lead the charge and take a proactive approach to the things that you would typically have to react to. Once you start to see gains in your performance, the feedback becomes a bit easier to receive.
2. Give Yourself Feedback- You know yourself better than anyone! Take some time to playback your day and identify small things you can do to make the next day better. We are usually our worst critic, so if you can handle feedback from yourself, you can handle feedback from anyone! You just have to make the time to slow down and identify the gap between your own desired and actual behaviors. Once that is identified you can write out some actionable steps and begin to develop on your own. I know many of you have jam packed days! Try isolating the major activities of the day by category so that you do not give yourself too much feedback! Some categories I reflect on include: Relationships, Performance, Family, Knowledge.
3. Practice: If this is your area of opportunity, you need to tackle it head on. An inability to handle feedback could potentially derail your career and hold you back in your personal and professional growth. The best way to learn is through experience! Find a coach, trusted partner, or engage your supervisor in the development of this area. Practice makes perfect. Tell them that you want to hear constructive feedback daily so that you can work on building your feedback muscle. After receiving the feedback, you have to work with them so that they can give you feedback on how you are doing with accepting feedback. You have to intentionally reflect on how you were feeling, how to regulate emotions, and how to implement the feedback. By addressing it head on, you force yourself to get out of your comfort zone and become more comfortable in those feedback discussions. Your future depends upon it!
I hope you found this helpful. Please feel free to add your suggestions on how to increase your feedback muscle below so that others can learn and develop as well.
Dr. Shanita Williams has been working in the Learning and Development space for over 10 years. She has worked as a thought partner, facilitator, and speaker on topics to include: Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Change Management, Feedback and various components of staff and leadership development.
Dr. Williams earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix (2015). Dissertation- She Made It: The lived experiences of African American working mothers as students. She is the CEO of Momploydent, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that is committed to helping working mothers excel academically. For speaking or training inquiries: www.momploydent.com or firstname.lastname@example.org