About a month ago, my leadership team agreed to invest in 360 feedback as a foundation for launching individual development plans across our entire organization. We felt that setting the tone by starting with ourselves was important. I couldn’t have agreed more.
I find feedback to be one of the most important things in my personal and professional life. I know I crave feedback more than some people, and probably at times more than is healthy. I reflect warmly on the times when friends and colleagues have taken the time to share their sincere thoughts about how I act and what I do, because:
- They value me enough to invest their scarce time in my performance and potential
- They trust me enough to tell me the truth, even if it is hard
- They believe that I am capable of using the feedback well
No matter what the feedback is, feedback is a gift. That is why it is called giving feedback.
Once in my career I found myself floundering. No one would give me any feedback. I went to the people who were signaling that things weren’t working, and I said, “I know things aren’t working. I am committed to doing better. What can I do differently?” I was putting myself out there — I was scared and I was hopeful. I waited to hear the feedback.
They said, “There’s nothing you can do.”
I was stunned. It felt like waking up on Christmas morning to find there were no presents. And, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t respond like the Who’s in Whoville. I stared. I asked again and got the same response. Behind the words, I heard something darker. You are not worth my time. I do not trust you with my honest feedback. You couldn’t use it anyway.
A little part of me died. Way more than I would have lost had I gotten a wheelbarrow full of constructive feedback, filled with pound after pound of failures and foibles. Being told that there was nothing I could do, that there was no feedback to be given, was the hardest thing I had ever heard. That day, I started planning to find a new team, a team that valued me — and feedback.
So, when I asked for feedback this time and fourteen of my peers, subordinates, and colleagues responded I was thrilled. Any feedback would have been great, but reading through it one comment stood out, a growth comment within the Adaptability performance area:
There’s so much there to unpack and reflect upon. It’s like a box within a box within a box within a box. Do I seek order and patterns? Yes. Are my values deeply held? Yes. Do I see grey spaces within the world? Yes. Do I, like the Vulcans, value the good of the many over the good of the one? Yes. Do I struggle to understand and sympathize with opposing points of view? Sometimes.
But, now I can try harder. I can use this feedback along with the rest. I can embrace it and learn from it.
And that’s a gift.