Saturday, September 27, 2014

Week Thirty-nine – Feedback!

Perception is reality and what others see in us may not be true but it’s their reality!

This week I was very pleased to see how when someone wants to listen and it’s willing to listen, feedback really works. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting a colleague and I took the opportunity to give them some feedback. In my job it is vital to provide people with feedback as it allows them to change and improve and as a result drive better performance for both the individual and their business. But it isn’t always easy and people don’t always want to listen. As I was looking through my Facebook this week I saw how this person had taken on board what I had shared with them and started to focus on how to change; and change for the better. To me this is a great achievement not just for the person but also for me, as I feel that I have helped them to be just that little bit better. But as I have said already, the person must want to change in order for this to work.

I have always been fascinated by this subject as I think it is one of the most crucial skills any successful person must have, especially if you deal with people in your every day life. It is also a vital part of what makes us, and feedback is what helps us to improve, stay on the right path and become better human beings by understanding where things need to change or adjust. Let me share with you what I know and have learnt about feedback over the years as I have both practised it and received it as well as studied it and taught it during my time as a trainer.

The first thing to understand is where feedback comes from. In music feedback is what musicians use to be able to play on stage. You may have noticed before large speakers sitting on the floor at the edge of the stage facing the artist or singers, these are feedback speakers. They allow the singer/musician to be able to listen what everyone else is playing and allow them to sing or play in line with them. The speakers you listen to in a concert face outwards towards the audience therefore the musicians cannot listen clearly to them, without feedback speakers (essentially just speakers but pointing towards them) they would not be able to know what they are doing and be completely out of tune. In other words they need to know if they are playing the right notes/tunes so that they can sound good; this is feedback.

So when we talk about giving someone feedback, we are essentially that speaker that faces the singer and lets them know what note to sign so that they may sound good. We have to be that speaker that tells people what they need to do to be able to be better and good. It’s like a mirror, this is a form of self-feedback, when you look at yourself then you can judge if you are looking good or not. Of course this is subjective as you may think you are looking great and someone else looks at you and may think the opposite, nonetheless the mirror allows you to see yourself and therefore make a judgement.

But we don’t always have a mirror or a speaker to tell us how we are doing. Feedback comes in all sorts of forms and shapes and it is usually intended to help the person, although sometime it may not seem that way. But it is also a way of us expressing how we feel about someone’s behaviour. And this is when it gets tricky… as it can become personal and lead to conflict between you and the person. It is a skill and it needs to be learnt, as well as understood so you are able to provide feedback in an effective manner. When I talk to people about feedback I ask them the question “why people don’t like to give or receive feedback?” There are various answers; “it’s tough”, “to avoid conflict”, “don’t have the time, or care about it”. But the reality is that most of us don’t like to give or receive feedback because we have all been victims of “bad” or “inappropriate” feedback at some point in our lives! Our parents, School Teachers, family members and even friends have hurt us by a wrong comment, an unkind word or a “criticism” that is neither helpful or of any value. And it is not the context of the feedback that is the issue; it is the way it was delivered.

So what is the secret to being able to give and receive feedback? It starts with you. I learnt that you need to understand that whatever you do affects people around you, in some way or another, and therefore in order to be able to be the best at what you do, you need to listen to those around you, they have a much better view than you do (they are the mirror or speaker we talked about) Here is an interesting example; have you ever listened to your own voice in a recording? I’m sure you have and like everyone else thought “what a horrible voice I have!” Or “is that really me? Do I sound like that?” this is because we can’t hear ourselves. So when someone says to you that you are loud, you may think immediately “no I’m not!” and that’s because you can’t hear yourself and so they may be right, you may be speaking a little bit too loud.

“Perception is reality” this is one of my favourite phrases; yes you may think that person who just told you to lower your voice is wrong and that they are stupid because you don’t speak loud, in other words you are right, they are wrong! But in their perception, in their reality, you are loud. The key here is to understand what you have been told, not what you think is right. Your friends may not have shared with you that have a loud voice, it may not bother them, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to turn the volume down. Others may be bothered by it but not told you for fear to offend you. Or some may just simply don’t care enough about you to tell you. So if a person takes the time and care to share with you this information, run with it! Think, “ok, may be I do have a loud voice, may be I need to be aware of it and when I’m around this person I need to turn it down” You have now become a better human being, just by simply adapting. The person has not ask you to be quite in front of everyone, they told you that in their opinion you have a loud voice. Taking the feedback and doing something about it will serve you well not just with this person but also in other occasions where you may be aware that you have a loud voice and you may need to turn it down.

One last thing about feedback; it isn’t always just about what you do wrong, but what you do right. The best form of encouraging good behaviour is by rewarding good behaviour. The only way for someone to carry on doing what he or she does well is by letting him or her know they are doing well. How many of us have given up doing something because we don’t know if we are doing well? It is essential that we also praise and give positive feedback to encourage more good behaviour!

I’m always open to feedback, it’s the only way you can improve, I only wish I had more of it so I can excel in everything I do. I want to encourage all of you to start practicing giving feedback and let me know how I’m doing with my blogs? I’ve been writing my weekly blog for 9 months and so far I don’t know if I’m writing total and absolute rubbish that no one enjoys or reads! I know some of you have occasionally shared your thoughts, thank you; everyone else please let me know, I want your feedback!

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