• Sarah Carter

Here's Some Feedback

Feedback, we all give it but are we giving good feedback or really just voicing a thinly disguised complaint? Think back to the last time you told, or were told by someone, to improve in some aspect of your job, sport, house duties, or anything. How did their method of delivery make you feel? If the answer is anything less than motivated or empowered, then that method of feedback was not effective. The likelihood that you will change your approach to whatever task, behavior, or method they complained about is slim to none all because of the way they chose to give you feedback.


I am by no means suggesting that those of you in a leadership position should go around telling people only the sunshine and rainbow version of life. Praising people even when they are doing something wrong (pg. 75), or avoiding giving them feedback all together, are two very ineffective methods of feedback Kristen Hadeed describes in Permission to Screw Up. Both of which she tried early on in her company and they both eventually failed. "There's a time for pep talks and a time for reality checks. And a good leader knows when and HOW to give both" pg. 75 (emphasis added).


The HOW is where we tend to get tripped up. We all dread formal feedback processes no matter what the occasion. The leadup, the actual writing of the form, the debriefing, and of course the implications and underlying competition with our peers are all stress inducing aspects of overly formalized feedback processes. Some people get so anxious about it that they even say they "wish they could just keep their head down, do their work, and that would be good enough." But "deep down...people really want to know how they are doing at work" pg. 74. Feedback is critical but the formal processes most of us have experienced suck the inspiration out and replace it with a sense of dread, formality, and bureaucracy that over ride the foundational importance of the feedback itself.


Hadeed experienced another problem with the standard evaluation process specifically regarding the younger generations. "When you've been told you're the bee's knees your whole life, you're not really sure how to handle it when your boss informs you that you kind of suck at something" pg. 80. She hires students in her company who hail from the participation ribbon generations. Everyone on their little league teams probably got a trophy even if they just sat in the outfield picking grass the whole time because it was all about having fun, not winning or losing. This unfamiliarity with being critiqued has left the majority of the younger work force unprepared for their first formal evaluations.

There is hope! Hadeed details a method for effectivly giving both formal and informal feedback that makes it both impactful and, when used correctly, uplifting. She learned it from a Barry-Wehmiller course called Listen and has successfully employed it in her company. It is called F.B.I. (don't worry, not The FBI so stop looking out your window concerned that any moment an unmarked van is going to pull up and guys with ear pieces are going to get out) which stands for Feeling-Behavior-Impact. You tell the person how their action, or inaction, made you feel. Then tell them what behavior you are specifically talking about so they are totally clear on what you are referencing. Finally, you tell them how this has, or could, impact their position, relationship with you, their future as a whole, or any other number of impacts it could have.


Here are a couple of examples I created:

John, it makes me so happy to see you helping your little cousins with their homework! You are really being a role model for them to emulate when they get older.


I am feeling very concerned about your performance as team leader. Your team members are consistently late and rude compared to their peers on other teams. If you are not able to keep them on schedule and instill a positive atmosphere, your potential for promotion will be effected.

How do you take feedback as a leader? Do those you are charged with leading have an opportunity to give you feedback at all? If not, you are missing out on important insight into your effectiveness. "Leaders need regular, candid feedback too" pg. 96 from those that are lead by them. Back in my flying days, our squadron conducted what I will call a 180 survey. It was an attempt at a 360 survey but the only two portions they chose to execute was a top-down and a peer-to-peer. Those who we led were not asked to give feedback on their leaders because the higherup leadership did not want to "open the door to a b***h fest."


I went ahead and asked my shop to do a leadership review anyway as an internal opportunity. I told them anything blatantly belligerent would be shredded and discounted. The feedback was humbling for me and my chief. The whole shop felt like we were never around because of our flying duties. They also felt seriously disconnected because I did not have a desk in their spaces so they had to come track me down if they needed me. To date, my own internal feedback survey is the best feedback I have gotten because it was honest and specific. Do not be so afraid of the thoughts of your people that you do not give them the opportunity to voice it.


Ultimately "there should be a little more clapping than critiquing" pg. 103 because happy, uplifted people are more fun to work with than those constantly criticized, made-to-feel-small people. Do not go out and buy a packet of gold stars and hand them out at the water cooler or in your kitchen to your family. Also, do not revert to verbally paddling everyone. Find a happy medium by using F.B.I. and strike a balance between the two because "to learn, grow, and be successful, people need feedback - the good, the bad, and the ugly" pg. 104.


What are some examples of F.B.I. that you have experienced? What feedback to you have for me? Really I mean it! Post it below, send me an email, connect over social media, or do whatever you have to and let me know. The next book is an awesome account of how one submariner tipped the age old hierarchy system on its head on his submarine. Grab a copy of Turn the Ship Around from Amazon (click HERE) and join the conversation starting Aug 16th!