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Ruben and I just finished the second season of The Great British Baking Show. It’s such a great way to enjoy carbs, fancy Brit accents, and the elevation of amateur baking. But the BEST part is the laser specific and concise feedback from Paul and Mary, both champion bakers.
In this piece, I want to share 4 aspects of champion feedback:
1) The Champion Attitude
2) Discerning Helpful Feedback Received
3) A few questions to ask to get the feedback that helps you
4) Giving valuable Feedback to others
The Champion Attitude Emphasizes Constant Improvement
Keeping your focus on constantly improving your performance encourages you to seek good feedback and make full use of it when someone supplies that.
Most people fear giving AND receiving feedback for fear of hurting others’ feelings, making them angry, or suffering their disapproval. So, to get honest feedback, champions ask for it and thank the responding person.
Because of humans’ inherent Negativity Bias, people pay a lot more attention to negative comments and possible threats than to any positive feedback. Unsolicited negative comments are physically distressing to hear.
Don’t take the usual route after negative feedback: quitting, getting angry, or denying helpful information. See it as feedback to get you back on track to where you want to go. Think of it as a way that winning coaches approach the players they are helping.
However, if you do get feedback from a non-expert, vague advice or some form of sour grapes, just take it as an indicator that you’re playing in a bigger league. The higher up one goes, the more visibility, the more people think they need to advise you.
It’s the price of doing business.
Discerning Helpful Feedback Received
Isn’t it the Best Thing Ever when people thank you, tell you how much you’ve helped them, give you a raise, bring you business, or warm fuzzies?
Receiving positive feedback feels absolutely wonderful and it’s a valuable tool to let us know that we’re on the right track.
However, negative feedback can be even MORE useful to a champion when (and if) it’s delivered properly.
Champion feedback is domain specific.
The way a music master class works is that a musician, or group of them, performs for the master teacher, in front of a group of peers and possibly other guests. Then the teacher critiques each person’s performance; sometimes peers also critique the playing.
While many of the comments are encouraging, in master classes I’ve attended at Charleston International Music School, I also heard things like “You need to play each note the way it is written” or “You keep getting behind” or “We talked about correcting this yesterday and I’m still hearing X.” X can be wrong note, wrong tempo, wrong color, wrong phrasing, too much or too little pressure or 99 other details.
That’s what happens when you are so interested in mastering something that you pay a coach to help you. Which is not the situation in giving/receiving feedback at work.
To discern the value of a so-called “constructive criticism” ask yourself questions like these:
Q 1. Is the source a champion on this topic?
Your BFF may be a leading expert in HR Benefits, but not sales conversations or vacation spots in Ibiza. The reason British Baking Show feedback is so powerful is that it is nationally-recognized masters advising top amateurs.
Be especially skeptical about business or career advice from people who are unhappy at work – or anyone from the haters class.
Q 2. Is the feedback actionable?
What can you actually do, or experiment with, as a result of the feedback?
Asking for Feedback Helps YOU
Asking questions to improve performance is a basic champion tool. The concept of saving face is actually phenomenally helpful and asking questions about how to solve a performance problem gets instant engagement.
In other words, there are painless ways to ask for quality feedback. Ask questions like these:
- What do you think is the best way to…?
- What do you see/hear..?
- “How do you see me limiting myself?”
My personal favorite:
- How can I better communicate with you?
Embrace quality feedback, ignore most of it and be proactive in seeking help from people who’ve done what you want to achieve.
When You Give Feedback, Be Nurturing
- Set up the conversation for success.
Effective champion feedback happens when the recipient wants to get better at something and is willing to listen to you.
You prepare a person to receive constructive comments by first affirming how important and valued she is to you, the company, the organization, the world.
Be precise and specific.
Not this : Jennifer, you’re doing a great job, but I need to you get more detailed in those SOWs.
Both phrases are too general. Specificity is sexy. Especially when giving feedback of any flavor. More detailed how? Great job means what? Avoid “You’re doing this well BUT….” (That’s why we do “yes, and” improv exercises in Mixonian workshops.)
Jennifer, your meeting the deadline for the SOW and attention to grammar are great, and it’s better if you specify the deliverables in greater detail. For example….
- Ask questions.
When coaching people, I ask them what they think needs to be done to move forward. Usually if you ask enough questions, point out the value they add to the system, the person usually sees for himself what needs to be done.
You don’t really have to say much. People often know what they need to do, and they hate hearing it from other people, but they shouldn’t mind telling you.
Just add one of your creative conclusions and you’re becoming champion.
You can read this piece specific to giving your BOSS feedback, while keeping your job.