Feedback is great. But will your message be heard?
Remember the blatant directness of a young child? And as that child grew, his behavior was managed so that he learned not to say what he was really thinking. But even as adults, isn’t that what we really all want? To know what people think? Truly believe? Of our performance, our word choices, our requests?
When I was 23, in my first professional role, I was in human resources for a well respected engineering firm. At 7:30 am one morning, the day after I had been asked for feedback on a firm-wide employee communication, I proudly waited for the managing partner to see me—knowing I was bypassing the gatekeeper at that hour. After reading the redlined hardcopy, the managing partner of a national firm said to me; “Kathy, I asked 5 people to review this memo, and you’re the only one who tore it to hell.” I responded by telling him that I thought he asked me, because he wanted my honest opinion.
I believe I’ve been successful in my career, to a great degree because people know that when they work with me they will get authentic feedback. And often my feedback is unsolicited. Ken Bartee once referred to me as an honest broker. I wasn’t even sure if that was a compliment at the time. At Helios we have said for years that we have a ‘feedback rich culture’ and I laugh as I also think, Be careful what you wish for. I get feedback all the time and am grateful that our team is comfortable in sharing it.
As I have matured, I have realized that how we deliver our messages will, to a large part, determine whether they are heard. Choosing our words is such an art, and one that I have gained a growing appreciation for. It is a constant developmental challenge for me, to anticipate how my words will be perceived. I have learned however, that if you are clear about your intentions, people will tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. I have learned that making clear requests and ensuring people understand the intentions of your feedback goes a long way in being heard.