By Rachael McCann – June 2024

The Discomfort of Feedback

Whether it is a final exam at the end of a semester or a performance review at the end of the year, terms like “Assessment,” Evaluation” and “Scorecard” can elicit feelings of vulnerability, uneasiness or downright dread. Why does feedback often make us feel exposed or uneasy? In professional settings, it’s not uncommon to find feedback daunting because it challenges our ego or perhaps threatens, in some cases, our very identity, particularly if we’ve intertwined our self-worth with success. But let’s pause for a moment. I invite you to consider the following questions with complete honesty:

• How often do you use feedback as a tool for developing team members?
• How often do you ask for feedback from peers and team members on your own performance?
• Is it harder to hear feedback when it’s around how our work or actions impact others, especially in areas we are confident we excel?
• Knowing feedback can make you feel vulnerable, what makes you feel more prepared to receive it?

Confronting the Vulnerability Head-On

Blind spots are there for all of us, so we don’t always solicit input on how we are doing. Reflecting on these questions might help us embrace feedback as a tool for growth, despite the initial discomfort.

In a recent conversation with my daughter, a mental health therapist, we dissected why feedback can trigger such deep-seated reactions. Our discussion revealed that the complexity of feedback is often rooted in our past experiences and the security we feel within our environment

The Power of Feedback

At Stop At Nothing, where I am deeply involved in the process of gathering and analyzing feedback, I am very clear on how powerful and even critical feedback is for organizational health and vitality. Personally, I find solicited feedback far more comfortable to handle than unexpected critiques. This does not make me unique—research confirms that when we seek out input on our own performance, we physiologically and psychologically respond with less anxiety.

As leaders, we know that offering regular feedback is a critical component of people development. By offering consistent insights into both strengths and opportunities for improvement we not only help individuals hone their skills and achieve their professional goals but also enhance their engagement. This connection to strategic objectives motivates employees to contribute more actively to our collective success. Moreover, this practice fosters a culture of continuous improvement, so we can better serve our customers with innovative, high-quality solutions.

Mastering the Art of Asking for and Receiving Feedback

When you search “power of feedback in the workplace” into a search engine, you will likely find a wealth of advice on how to effectively offer feedback to employees. However, what is often less discussed is how to master the art of asking for and receiving feedback from our peers, partners and reports. At Stop At Nothing, we have spent over 30 years refining our approach to help individuals and teams excel in this area. Through this experience, we’ve identified key strategies for collecting meaningful data and leveraging it to enact genuine improvements.

8 Practical Steps to Solicit & Utilize Feedback in the Workplace
As we continue to explore the nuances of feedback in our professional lives, understanding how to effectively ask for and handle feedback is crucial. Here are some steps to consider:

1. Initiate Dialogue: This simple action is often overlooked but is essential for positive organizational growth. We might not always be aware of our blind spots or fully grasp their breadth, depth and impact. When you sincerely ask for feedback and create a safe environment, you’re more likely to receive honest answers.

2. Frontline Insight: Leaders can become disconnected from what is happening on the ground. Engage directly with frontline employees to understand their challenges and how decisions affect their effectiveness. Encouraging them to assess what works and what doesn’t build trust.

3. Request Examples: Concrete examples are powerful when it comes to feedback, as they provide clear insights into strengths and weaknesses. Ensure psychological safety so that employees can share openly without fear of retribution. This can be an anonymous forum or a supported roundtable. This works in your favor because the most detailed feedback is the most useful.

4. Measure Impacts: By asking direct questions on how things like change, leadership styles and decisions are impacting employees in their day-to-day roles, we can make meaningful course corrections and reinforce existing strengths.

5. Fuel Innovation: Inviting employees to contribute ideas and input on implementing effective changes significantly enhances their sense of value within the organization. This practice not only fosters innovation but also energizes it. By creating an inclusive environment where all ideas, including those that may initially appear unconventional or ‘out-of-the-box,’ are welcomed, you cultivate a culture of creative thinking. Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling encapsulated this ethos when he said, ‘The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

6. Stay Open: People generally offer feedback with the intention of making a positive difference. It’s essential to understand that these perceptions are their daily realities. Encourage open dialogue by asking questions and showing curiosity. Utilize what is useful from the feedback and consciously avoid internalizing it.

7. Provide Updates: As I gather feedback from employees on behalf of leadership teams, a common question arises: ‘Will we receive updates on how leaders are using this feedback?’ It’s essential to recognize that when individuals invest time in providing their insights, whether through surveys or direct conversations, they are eager to see the outcomes. The essential steps following the collection of feedback involve analyzing the data and developing a strategic action plan. Once formulated, it is important to communicate this plan clearly to all participants, outlining the specific actions to be taken and the responsibilities associated. Additionally, acknowledging their contributions with gratitude is vital for maintaining engagement and trust.

8. Show Results: Discussing change is straightforward, yet implementing it effectively can be challenging. Ensuring accountability when soliciting feedback is a critical component of the feedback process. It’s important to communicate the successes and milestones achieved as a result of feedback. Often, employees express skepticism about the outcomes of their feedback, usually due to unfavorable past experiences where they felt their input was overlooked. To counter this perception, it is essential to demonstrate that their contributions are valued. Even if not all suggestions can be acted upon, showing tangible results and progress is vital. For example, hearing feedback like ‘He has previously received feedback on x-y-z and has shown significant improvement,’ reinforces my appreciation and trust in the process.

Turning Feedback Fear into Fuel for Growth

The feedback journey can certainly be daunting; as human beings, we love praise but often find it difficult to hear critiques of our actions from others. However, the positive impacts of engaging with contrastive feedback are undeniable. sums it up like this: “Simple as it may seem, feedback — that ubiquitous necessity of organizational life — has proven to be an axis on which organizational culture turns. Research is suggesting that by switching from giving feedback to asking for it, organizations can tilt their culture toward continuous improvement; smarter decision making; and stronger, more resilient teams that can adapt as needed.”

Transforming Team: The Stop At Nothing Approach

One of our key services at Stop At Nothing is the Team Effectiveness sessions. Before engaging hands-on with leadership teams to enhance their interpersonal dynamics and effectiveness, we dedicate considerable time to data collection. This preparation forms the foundation for the insightful reports we generate, which are based on the verbatim feedback from their peers, direct reports, and cross-functional partners whenever possible. Additionally, we utilize this process as a pivotal coaching tool in leadership development. Leaders across myriad industries have found this process to be a catalyst for transformation not only at the individual level but also across their entire organization.

Recognizing that your organizational mix likely includes Feelers, Thinkers, Judgers and Perceivers allows you to leverage the diversity of talent you have diligently recruited and retained. By actively soliciting, acknowledging and acting on their ideas and suggestions, you enhance your team’s potential. While you may have the foundational elements- raw ingredients, framework, and processes- it is the people who unlock the full potential of your organization. Their willingness to share perspectives indicates a commitment to assisting leadership and their team in improving and growing. Demonstrating that you value their input not only engages and builds trust but also opens opportunities for learning new insights throughout the process.

Stop At Nothing has supported leaders and their teams for 30+ years in navigating challenges and capitalizing on organizational strengths by implementing transformational solutions derived from empirical data straight from the heart of the workforce. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about how Stop At Nothing can assist your organization in mastering the art of asking for and receiving feedback with an Organizational Effectiveness Assessment.