Most of us have been there. You’re a conscientious person. You’ve worked hard, you’ve practiced, you’ve stepped out in creativity or pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone, and now, at last, you’ve completed the project, wrapped up the school semester or finished the big soccer game. Before you can take a deep breath, your supervisor or coach is critiquing you or even inviting critiques from your team.
You have your own ideas about what went well and what could have been improved… but that stage was skipped and the feedback is rolling in. You try to listen, but it’s hard to stay tuned in and ‘embrace’ the feedback.
Why is that? Feedback is easier to accept from others once you’ve had a chance to evaluate yourself. It’s just human nature.
What’s the big deal about embracing feedback? If a person doesn’t accept feedback, they won’t use it-- which negates the goal of feedback in the first place--improvement.
Thankfully, as a supervisor or coach, you can make feedback easier to absorb and apply, which also has a huge impact on improving your business results. From my observations, one of the most effective techniques for ensuring feedback will be internalized and applied is to ensure people have an opportunity to critique themselves first. This works well in a small, applied training environment or in day-to-day work situations. After your employee tries a new skill, follow up with him, and before sharing your feedback, let him do his own self-critique first. Ask him to share one thing that went well. (Don’t let him say ‘nothing’—pause and wait him out.) Then, ask him to share one thing that could have been improved.
In my experience, people are hard on themselves and accurately nail their mistakes, but often fail to give themselves enough credit. If they are asked to self-identify issues first (in a ‘safe’ way) they will identify most of their own improvement areas up front, which means the feedback given by you as a leader and from co-workers can mainly serve to build them up and encourage them. This frees the employee up to acknowledge and focus on the few improvement suggestions that may have escaped them.
There are a few requirements for ensuring self-critiquing goes well. The common theme is that employees must feel ‘safe’ to share – meaning you have created an environment where they:
There are plenty of opportunities to practice this ‘self-critiquing first’ feedback concept—when presented with your third graders’ report card results, your 16-year olds’ first fender-bender, or when one of your employees’ projects seems to be going south. Simply acknowledge their circumstance, effort or pain, and ask for their insights before supplying yours or inviting anyone else to do so.
When invitations for self-critiquing are extended first and managed well, employees will likely embrace feedback and their confidence, self-awareness, problem-solving capabilities and trust in you as their leader, should all increase; along with your team’s effectiveness and your organizations’ bottom line results!