Thursday, July 30, 2009

Are You Open To Some Feedback?

My wife, Jewell, and I have been giving each other positive and constructive feedback for 20 years. Many people think the way we give feedback is “weird” or “strange”. It works for us. I learned this technique in corporate America and brought it into the Team Tunstall household.
Many employees and even senior leaders I have worked with in my business career view feedback as a four letter word. Bad four letter words. Most of us instantly think of being called into the boss’ office and being given “negative” feedback on our performance or style. The best leaders use positive and constructive feedback as a way to develop their employees’ careers and motivate higher work performance. We believe this philosophy can be used in relationships as well.

Jewell and I do view feedback as a four letter word. That word is GIFT. It’s a gift to have someone care enough about you to be genuine, candid and honest enough to let you know what you are doing well and what you can improve in to be a better person, spouse or parent. It is such a strong message of “I care about you and want you to do well”. It is not meant to hurt the other person, which is manipulation.

The technique that Jewell and I use is to ask the other person for permission to provide feedback by simply stating “Are you open to some feedback?” Those six simple words set the stage to eliminate all defensiveness and ensure the timing is right for a healthy dialogue. We all have had times when now is not the right time for feedback, it happens and it’s OK. Jewell and I have had many instances where we said “not right now, maybe later”.

Keep in mind this technique is for positive feedback as well as constructive feedback. When we have examples of something wonderful that the other person did, we make sure we use those magic six words. This is critical because we don’t want ‘Are you open to some feedback?” to be only for constructive feedback. Remember, it’s a gift and we do it because we care.
A couple of critical things to keep in mind when giving feedback in this style are to make sure it is immediate and specific as possible. You don’t want to wait two weeks to give someone feedback. They may not remember the situation and you lose two weeks in modifying or continuing that behavior.

Specificity is critical. Eliminate general statements like “you seemed upset”, “you were angry” or “I liked your style”. Get in the details of what you saw or heard like “I noticed you were crying”, “Your face got beet red and you raised your voice to him” or “You walked with confidence by having great posture and making eye contact”. The more specific you are the clearer the person can replay a movie in their head of what they did in the situation. The better the person can refer to the situation the more likely a dialogue will take place. You want a dialogue to happen not a monologue.

I challenge you to give this technique a shot in the next week. It will feel awkward at first but all new behaviors feel a little strange in the beginning. Try the six magic words with positive feedback first. Positive feedback is always more comfortable to give than constructive feedback. Notice how the other person reacts when you ask permission to provide them feedback. Reflect on how it made you feel.

We would love to hear your comments about your experiences with “Are You Open to Some Feedback”. Please feel free to write back on our blog site with what you experienced. Also, if you know of others that may benefit from this challenge please pass our blog along to them.

Until next time, Control your Destiny or Someone Else Will!