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Facing up to Feedback

360 degree feedback is not a new idea. Most of us have been part of a 360 process in our career at some point, either as a receiver or as a giver. The principle behind the process is always a good one i.e with good feedback we can improve in our roles, and yes when we get good feedback it can be helpful.

But what if we don’t?

Over many years of coaching leaders I have seen the impact of good and bad feedback and well received and poorly received feedback. I’ve met people who treated feedback as some form of instruction and tried to do everything that had been suggested in their feedback report. They struggled, often making matters worse, losing their authenticity and vastly reducing their energy as they tried to be all things to all people and ultimately not true to themselves.

The arrival of on-line competency based feedback has brought with it some issues too. The maze of competencies and the choices they bring to the giver of feedback often means that the ranking or rating is inaccurate. Why does this happen? Because feedback is in the eye of the beholder. If the giver of feedback is not focused on a competency, i.e they do not value that competency then they will not really see that competency even if you are displaying it. On the other hand if they value something they will rank it as highly important in their mind and of course the chances of you meeting their inbuilt criteria are limited, resulting in feedback scores that vary from person to person (or a lot of mid-way scores).

The Altris Executive 360 approach cuts through this by giving the feedback giver the opportunity to give the feedback that they want to give without boundaries of competencies or preconceived criteria. Our simple ‘keep doing’ ‘stop doing’, ‘do more of’ approach followed by some good old fashioned digging by the facilitating coach aims to surface consistent issues, trends and the real feedback that the coachee needs to hear.

But we still face the problem of relative valuing by different people and of course that of perception. With relative valuing, those that are in creative and innovative roles will always ask for more innovation for example, while the risk averse will often suggest that a little more process would be helpful.

And as for perception, we often have people suggesting reasons for the behaviour that they see. Often if you did something they did not like they will attribute a reason to it and couch their feedback that way. Of course, nobody knows the reasons for anyone else’s behaviour but people still like to make sense of something by the process of attribution. Again with our Exec 360 process we can help the coachee cut through this, but what does the receiver of feedback have to do to deal the perceptions of others and the relative valuing of what is important?

Firstly I would say that it doesn’t matter whether they have got your motivation wrong, the fact that something was wrong in their mind means that you could have done something better. Work out what you can do, within your brand and your style, to improve the situation in future and the feedback will still be helpful.

Secondly, don’t just write perception off. Perception affects your brand whether you agree with it or not. Only you can manage your brand and therefore the best way to deal with perception is by acting in a way that gives no-one cause to look at you any other way than you have defined in your brand.

Thirdly. Accept that people are giving you feedback. They may value things differently from you, but if three people mention something it is highly likely that it something important in your role or performance. It’s therefore worth paying attention to.

So how do you face up to feedback? Remember that it is just what it says; ‘feedback’ and that doesn’t make it right or wrong, but it is a gift. Write it off at your peril but remember that you have to be the best version of you so work out what is behind the feedback, and see how you can deliver the necessary intent whilst still being you.


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