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Are You a Leader Who Thinks Feedback Is Your Friend?

Feedback Image
ARE YOU SHOWING the pathway to building a culture of feedback in Your team?

When people are asked to list their most difficult conversations in the context of work, feedback always emerges near or at the top of the list. In general, people don’t give feedback well, and receivers don’t receive it well. There are biases, hesitations, and a variety of fears that exist around it. It’s just far too hard for far too many people. 

But if we operate in a space where feedback doesn’t happen, we inevitably stagnate and fall behind.  Learning about ourselves can be brutal, and feedback doesn’t mean you have to take it all; but how you engage in the conversation makes all the difference.  Feedback is a gift and your ability to accept it opens doors to growth, insight and self-awareness. It’s a foundational ingredient to being a future-ready leader and a massive accelerant to team development and growth. 

What’s So Hard About Feedback? 

Author and thought-leader Sheila Heen has done powerful and innovative work in the field of feedback, breaking it down into a framework of understanding and insight that cuts right to the core of the challenge. In Heen’s words, “Feedback sits at the junction of the need to learn and grow, and the need to be loved, respected and accepted.” In short, it’s tough work. There are barriers (many of them self-imposed) that can stop us from asking for the feedback we need, as well as offering it to others with the right intention and clarity. 

We are awkward when we give feedback. I’m sure at some point, each of us has framed a feedback conversation with, “I’m going to give you some constructive criticism.” When we tear these words down, how ridiculous are they? Would we really be offering “destructive criticism” to our colleagues, which is intended to be personal, venomous, and ill-willed? Of course not! But in our fear and discomfort about providing direct and caring feedback that is in service of improving others, we feel compelled to use qualifiers that are, by their nature, oxymoronic and purposeless. 

Feedback is how we learn. Without it we don’t grow. 

Feedback is how we identify our blind spots. Without it, we can’t see what we need to see. 

Feedback is how we build trust – with ourselves and others. 

Who’s In Charge Of Feedback? 

Another hidden truth about feedback is that the person in charge is the receiver, not the giver. When we are asking for and receiving feedback, we have our hands on the wheel. 

It starts with our stance. Are we coming into the feedback conversation with curiosity and openness, or are we going in defensive and with our armour on? That stance will fundamentally shift the experience, for both the receiver and the giver. 

And here’s an “aha” moment; you don’t have to accept all the feedback. You should listen to it all, take it on board, and reflect on it. But you are not obliged to accept or action every single element.  

As Sheila Heen says, the reality is that feedback may be 90% wrong, but that last 10% might be just what we need to learn and grow.  Whichever learning we can harvest from those feedback conversations, we can always be grateful for it. 

How Fluency Embraced Pre-Launch Feedback – Case Study 

As Catherine and I were building the story, plan and messaging about our new company this summer, we put enormous effort and thought into crafting every element. We are marketers and communicators at our heart, so every word and every image were curated and planned. We were confident about our core insights and the services we wanted to offer in the market. 

About one month before launch, we realized we were missing something important: feedback. Particularly in the remote working environment, our interaction and conversation with colleagues was constrained, and we knew without the feedback and reflections of other experts, we’d not be prepared to achieve our goals. 

So, we set out on the pursuit of feedback. Over the course of three weeks, we met with 15 colleagues, thought-leaders, partners and like-minded consultants to get feedback on the Fluency plan. Despite being inherently supportive of us and excited about our new venture, we were 100% clear that these meetings were not designed to be an hour of high-fives over Zoom; we needed their direct and candid feedback. We presented our content and then asked wide-open, vulnerable questions to get the feedback we needed: 

What’s making sense?  

What’s resonating?  

What’s unclear? 

How compelling is our story and services?  

What’s missing?  

What’s exciting and innovative? 

How else can we improve our plans? 

Every one of those meetings was important. Each meeting gave us a reflection, insight, or identified a blind-spot that was critical for our company and our launch. We also heard and reflected on some feedback, but chose not to act on. And we expressed our authentic gratitude for the time and care of those colleagues in giving us the feedback we needed. 

It was the most important action we took in launching our company. 

The Leader’s Imperative On Feedback 

It starts with us. As leaders, we have to show the pathway to building a culture of feedback in our teams. That means being better about receiving feedback and having the courage to seek it out It means providing positive feedback to reinforce what people are doing right. It also means providing challenging feedback with compassion, clarity and purpose to those that ask for it. It means creating an environment that values feedback across all touchpoints in an organization.  

And the great benefit is, the better we get at receiving feedback, the better those around us will be at doing the same. It’s a virtuous cycle that fuels and accelerates high performance cultures with almost limitless benefitsYour intention around feedback will inevitably make a positive imprint on how you learn and grow as a leader and as a team. 

Coaching Questions: 

What’s the culture of feedback within your team and organization? 

Who could provide you with important feedback next week? 

What are you curious about that feedback from a trusted colleague could enlighten? 

Fluency offers Feedback Is Our Friend as an immersive, interactive workshop that can be the accelerant to building a culture of feedback in your organization. Reach out to us at to learn more. 

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