I recently received some feedback that was hard to hear.  Seems I had developed a habit I thought was a friendly way to relate when, actually, I had never really stopped to understand how it might be perceived by others.  Turns out, it was rarely received in the manner intended.  It was very good feedback to receive, just wish I had received it a LONG, LONG time ago.

Ironically, I speak often on using feedback as a relevant tool for leaders to positively influence their people.  Here I was, receiving personal feedback and it still stung even though I understood I needed to hear it and I could put it to effective use immediately.

It is good to be reminded how hard even good feedback is to receive.  Here it was, the same thing that is required to initiate a positive feedback loop and I was reminded of how awkward it still is to receive.

So how does it get easier? Good news – it does!  But the twist is you must keep asking for it.  Not intuitive at all, is it?

How does a positive feedback loop start?

It starts one of two ways, asking or providing.  Both involve a strategic approach.  Thanks to experts that include Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, authors of the popular book, ‘Thanks for the Feedback’, I identified 3 critical pieces of initiating a useful feedback loop.  Give context, ask (or provide) just 1 thing to improve, and ask for an example.  There’s some useful psychology behind this too.

Making sure context is provided allows both parties to stay within one topic of interest and know exactly what each is referencing.

Asking for 1 thing is to provide a first step approach to success. Turns out, psychologically, we can only handle one new piece of information at a time – realistically – and it is good practice to give equal time to both, the good and the bad, types of feedback.  Giving equal weight to how long you think about both, the 1 positive or the 1 negative feedback you just received, helps you understand where it lands in your future actions.

Lastly, once feedback is provided, the listener should always ask to be provided an example of what using that feedback looks like from the providers perspective.  This is the link to creating a positive feedback loop.  Given an example of what is expected allows both parties to stay in the conversation together, moving forward.  The provider can bring it up as time goes by and the person who received the feedback can initiate support in putting the feedback to use, or ask for assistance, provide insights into how it’s progressing, working, or not.  Positive feedback loops are designed to keep moving forward.

Whether asking or giving feedback, these 3 steps make the feedback more attractive, easier to use, and are key in setting a positive feedback loop into action.  Using this approach allows for feedback to occur as regularly as desired.  The key is to make sure you do this regularly and often.

Asking often is like eating an elephant one bite at a time, small pieces of feedback to avoid the cataclysmic whopper that crushes the spirit.


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