Yogesh Dhimate

Notes to Myself

Jul 28, 2021 - 4 minute read - Personal

About Thanks for the Feedback

I received ‘Thanks for the Feedback ’ by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen as an optional read for my leadership coaching program. I wasn’t very enthusiastic to read it. I didn’t have high expectations from the book. I was suspecting that it will talk about the typical annual review process at work and the kind of feedback you get from your boss. After finishing it in a few days though, I was surprised by how useful it was, not only for the feedback at the job but also in the personal relationships.

I captured the following notes from the book.

What counts as feedback

Feedback is any type of information you receive from another person or organization about yourself. Your manager, partner or spouse, child or a friend always share their opinions with you. The book talks about the effectiveness of receiving feedback gracefully. It teaches the feedback receivers to build self-awareness and helps in planning concrete actions.

Three types of feedback

There are three types of feedback

  • Appreciation - This is an acknowledgment for a job well done.

  • Coaching - This type of feedback identifies where you fall short and how you can improve.

  • Evaluation - This feedback is calibrating your performance, and rating you. This often decides things like your raise and promotion.

Triggers that block the feedback

We do fine with the positive feedback. But the negative feedback is stressful for the giver as well as especially for the receiver. It triggers the receiver. The triggers block the feedback. The purpose of sharing the feedback is not met. The triggers are classified in 3 broad buckets.

  • Truth Triggers

    When you feel that the feedback is wrong and untrue, it results in truth triggers. This can happen when there is a mismatch in the expectation. E.g. You are looking for an appreciation, but your manager gives you coaching. You feel that the feedback is unhelpful and wrong. Whereas your manager feels that with his coaching, he is helping you grow in your career.

    There are a few things you can try when receiving the feedback to avoid the truth triggers.

    • Separate appreciation, coaching, and evaluation:

      Ask about the type of feedback you are expecting. The feedback givers aren’t always equipped with the right tools and framework to share appropriate feedback with you. Proactively seek the feedback you are looking for.

    • Shift from “That’s wrong” to “Tell me more”:

      When you receive untruthful feedback, try to learn more about it by asking questions.

    • Discover your blind spots, and uncover by learning more from the feedback.

  • Relationship Triggers

    Relationship triggers are caused by the relationship you have with the feedback giver. You don’t trust that they are qualified or equipped to give you the feedback. It might be because of the organizational dynamics or interpersonal relationships

    • Disentangle ‘what’ from ‘who’: Instead of focusing on ‘who is giving you the feedback, focus on ‘what is the feedback.

    • Identify the relationship system : What is the particular combination of the relationship that is creating the problem? Are your roles clashing? How does this relationship fit into the big picture?

  • Identity Triggers

    Identity triggers are caused when the feedback affects your self-image. This happens when the feedback challenges your relationship with yourself.

    • Learn how wiring and temperament affect your story:

      Think about these questions -

      • What is your baseline temperament?

      • How far up or down do you go?

      • And how do you recover from the negative feedback?

    • See feedback at its actual size. Don’t exaggerate and get overwhelmed by it. Identify the feedback footprint. Imagine the worst and be prepared for it. Constrain the time, specificity, and the story of the feedback.

    • Cultivate a growth identity. Accept that you will make mistakes and learn from them. Give yourself a second score - by learning from the experience.

Accepting and rejecting the feedback

You don’t need to accept all the feedback. You can appreciate the efforts and thoughts from the feedback giver but reject the feedback that isn’t useful.

  • Draw boundaries when enough is enough

  • Navigate the conversation

    • Get aligned with the feedback giver

    • Listen for what’s right and why they see it differently

    • Assert what’s left out

    • Be your own process referee

    • Solve problems to create possibilities

    • Close with commitment

    • Keep the conversation in motion

Acting on the feedback

Once you decide to accept the feedback, act on it.

  • Identify one thing that you can immediately incorporate

  • Try small experiments

  • Ride out the J curve

  • Coach your coach to give you a helpful feedback

To summarize, this book is full of helpful techniques and provides us with ways to extract, cope, handle and grow with the feedback. Receiving feedback is a skill. This book provides a roadmap to build that skill.