Welcome to Leadership from the Balcony.
My name is Shawn Griesemer with my co-host Justin Dorroh.
Each week we bring you a new leadership concept to inspire your growth and effectiveness as a leader in every area of your life.
Justin – Nine times out of ten you're going to get it in a bad package. If you have to have it a certain way, you're going to miss a lot of opportunity for growth, development, etc.
Shawn – When you're in that kind of environment, it just creates an insatiable desire for, hey give me more feedback, help me to grow, help me to see what I can't see, because the blind spots are enormous.
Shawn – Today we're talking about feedback. Everyone has a relationship with feedback. For some it's a place of reinforcing failure, but for others it's a new awareness for learning and opportunities for growth.
Shawn – Thanks for joining us on the Balcony. We hope you enjoy peering over the railing to gain an expanded leadership perspective.
Justin - I think, you know, from a leadership point of view, when leaders can model receiving feedback, your team members will begin to ask for feedback as well. When leaders demonstrate a willingness to really hear, listen, lean in, and ask questions to get on the same page, I think that helps to also create that psychological safety within an organization. That feedback can transfer up, down, and side to side. And when it's missing, it seems like what ends up happening is everyone kind of goes to the corner, their corner.
Shawn - Yes, for sure.
Justin - And protects against giving or receiving. Maybe just giving is all they want to do, but they do not want to receive, and therefore, they will discount feedback. Well, you don't know this or that. Well, you don't know my intention.
There's a book, I don't think I ever read, but I remember people talking about it. And they talked about the difference between intention and impact. And so much of feedback is someone letting you know the impact that might not have been your intention. And it's so easy to see ourselves through the lens of our intention and to see everyone else through the lens of their impact and recognize it goes both ways.
I think that can be the painful part as well, “How could you think I meant that?”
It's like, “Well, I had 20 different options. It was one of the options. How could you think I didn't? How could you think that couldn't be an option?”
So, I think in a lot of ways, leaders set the tone for receiving feedback and learning how to give feedback, for sure is a skill, but I think from a leadership perspective, that receiving feedback and making it safe…I won't say it feels more important, but it feels highly important.
Shawn – Yeah, he book was actually “The Speed of Trust.” In that book, they used intent versus behavior. You know your intent and then you behave. But the outside world, to you, sees your behavior and they draw their own interpretation of your intent.
So, the ability to actually not just go to somebody and say, “You behave this way, therefore this was your intent,” but to come and say, “Hey, this is how I experienced what happened. What did you mean by that?” Just like you said.
I love that perspective, just like we talked about last time, how could it not mean? You know we always come in and let's talk for a second about how to receive feedback because I think what you just laid out is both from the how does somebody receive and how does somebody give. Because both of those people are coming in with a perspective that's their own, and the one who's receiving it, is hearing it through a lens, and the one giving it, through a lens.
So, let's talk for a minute about what are some great practical ways of receiving feedback that set you up best for change and learning and growing?
Justin - Yeah, I mean the first thing that comes to my mind is when someone begins to give feedback and you start to internally feel those sirens go off and the defenses come up.
Shawn - I have no idea what you're talking about. Just kidding.
Justin - Yeah, it's just me.
Shawn - Right.
Justin - I think the first question is to understand how the words being used, how that person defines them. Hey, you just said this, whatever this is. Can you help me understand what do you mean when you say that? And let them give the meaning instead of you assume the meaning.
And what's so hard is, we assume meaning, you know, I think we said this in our “Perspectives” episode, we assume meaning at the drop of a hat. I think the more you practice asking yourself the question, “I wonder what they meant by this?” You more naturally recognize, oh, it could…you start to recognize more, a variety of meanings. And then that reduces that internal siren, and it actually allows you to lean in to learn and to really understand, oh, when they said it, they meant it this way. And now you start to build some shared meaning, at least in that moment, and some shared experience so that the next time, because there will always be a next time, you can ask again.
Shawn - Yeah, so we talked a second ago about soliciting feedback sets up the mindset for change and learning to actually go and ask people for feedback. So that's obviously a first point of just getting yourself ready for it. But you even just referenced about listening with the ability to learn.
And we talked last time in our last episode about Jennifer Garvey Berger. In her book on leadership mind traps, she talks about the different types of listening. And there's listening to fix, listening to win.
Well, let's go through listening to fix first. So, listening to fix is when somebody comes to you and they start talking. And she's generally talking about this when dealing with decision making and problems that come up in a very complex environment. Sometimes there's a need to listen to a problem and you do need to listen to fix. And you go, “Okay, what's the solution?” But oftentimes in feedback environments or in very complex situations, we don't know how to fix it. And if we listen to fix, all we're doing is waiting for the person to stop talking so we can tell them, “Oh, well, this is the solution. This is what we need to do.” And you're not even listening anymore to what the person says because you already have landed on, here's how I'm going to fix it.
The next one she talks about is listening to win. And it's the, Justin, you come to me, and you start giving me some feedback. And I'm like, “Okay, finish up, finish up. I'm going to tell you how you're wrong. I'm going to tell you how that's not what happened.” I'm going to contextualize away what you just said or tell you how the perspective you have isn't the right perspective.
And I like to think of it in terms of… you're deflecting it or you're denying it even, you know… or you're distancing yourself emotionally, but you're like… you're listening to wait for them to finish because you're going to win what's going on in this situation.
And neither one of those leads to learning, leads to change, leads to feedback, having a really good opportunity for growth.
And the last one she talks about is listening to learn. And listening to learn allows the individual to go all the way through what it is they have to say. You truly have to practice that art of patience in listening. And then it's asking questions. “Tell me more about that. Tell me about what it felt like when I did that. How did you experience me in that moment?” What you're doing is engaging the learning side of it because you're not wanting to fix it. You're not trying to win an argument here or a discussion or prove somebody wrong. You're looking for how can I really get more out of what this person is saying because it's not my perspective. How do I gain their perspective?
Justin - And I think what's interesting on both the listening to fix and listening to win approach, the downside of that, is you just broke trust with the person.
Shawn - Oh, it's so good. Yes.
Justin - It might be an overstatement to say every time, but I'll say most times. You're breaking trust, especially the more developed someone is because they see it and they recognize they're not trying to understand, they're just trying to be, you know, whether it's winning or it's solving a problem that we don't, we haven't even diagnosed the problem accurately. And I think that is the downside. So sometimes someone can walk away thinking, man, I really saved that scenario and actually you just made it worse, but you have no idea. And you may not know for six months, nine months, 12 months, because you might have just lit the fuse for that person to make an exit. And you have no idea.
Shawn - The leadership perspective on this… Jennifer was talking through it and she said, countless leaders for so many years have ignored whispers of problems. You know, for a subordinate to come to a leader and actually give feedback, to say that something's going awry, to say that there's a challenge or a tension, it's hard for people to come to their leaders and say that.
Justin – It takes courage.
Shawn – It takes a lot of courage. So oftentimes it comes in a whisper. And many leaders have gone far off because they didn't press into the whispers. And the best of leaders are the ones who hear a whisper and go in and actually explore the whisper for greater clarity and for greater understanding. And finding out there may be something that was huge, but they only got a whisper because the amount of courage it took to be able to say it was insurmountable or just under insurmountable for those subordinates.
Justin - Yeah. You know, even hearing you kind of give that picture of a curious leader will explore a whisper, so many times leaders say, but I have more perspective because maybe they're in more meetings, maybe from a business perspective, they're talking to key customers all the time. They have a really good pulse on the market. And so they can hear some of those whispers and go, well, that's not true and therefore ignore it. Problem is somebody thinks it's true. Somebody's doing something with that information.
Shawn - That's right.
Justin - Or not doing something they should be doing because of that whisper. And regardless of its accuracy, it is worth exploring because sometimes from a leadership perspective, you can then broaden someone's perspective by helping them see what you have visibility to and then diagnosing why don't they have visibility to it.
And there are times for sure that there's… it could be a security thing. It could be, not every layer needs to know, but if it's not that, why don't layers know in the organization and how do we help them know because that also builds credibility with the top team because what it communicates is we trust you. We trust you with this information, so we're going to make it available.
And I think, again, you can be right and be wrong in how you ignore a problem or how you handle a problem because you're not recognizing, hey, this is sending me a signal in a part of the organization that I don't interact with much and I might need to understand what's actually going on so that we can soothe some of those tensions. And it actually builds more trust, more engagement because I listened, not because I needed to punish them for not having all the information, which I did not supply them. So, I think there's multiple ways that these whispers inform us. And it's not just there's a problem. They might not have all the information and that's the problem that I need to help solve.
Shawn - What are your thoughts on maybe just a couple of pointers on giving feedback?
Justin - You know, I think the key is to not give judgments. As soon as you add interpretation to your observations without hearing from the person first, that is a judgment. So, it's always good to say, “Hey, what I've observed is the behavior. I don't really know what you meant by that. So, what I need help with is, can you add the meaning so that I can rightly interpret what happened or what didn't happen?” And I think that makes it more objective.
“Shawn, I saw you scratch your head. I don't know what that meant. Can you help me with that?”
Shawn - Right.
Justin - I didn’t say, whatever, you know, interpretation I wanted to add that would make that feel offensive.
Shawn - Yes.
Justin - So, if you can keep things as observational as possible and then create, “I wasn't sure exactly what you meant,” moments, or “I don't know if you meant this, this or this,” that might help someone realize like, “Oh wow, I didn't realize there was multiple meanings to what I just said or what I just did.”
Shawn - Yeah.
Justin - What would you say?
Shawn – Coming in with questions, given a little time, it's not that hard to take a statement you want to make and think of an effective question that says, “I'm not going to assume upon understanding or that I know. So let me ask a question into the statement I want to make.”
It's easy for me to say, “Justin, you feel uncomfortable when nobody's talking in a meeting, and I think you need to get over that.”
Okay, that's feedback.
Justin - Right.
Shawn – But for my ability to come to you and say, “Hey, Justin, I've noticed when we're in meetings and everybody kind of stops talking, you generally like to start to talk and it's hard to have just stillness and silence sit in a meeting. What is it that you experience in those moments?”
Hopefully you feel no indictment at that moment. I'm not telling you you've done something wrong. I'm not saying this isn't best for the group, but there may be something that's going on that's going to help me learn you better. And you may not even know you're doing it.
So, I've not presupposed you're off, wrong, that you're doing something that's agenda bent or whatever.
So having questions, and I heard somebody say this one time, the best way to ask questions in those type of moments is to come in with curiosity and you ask a question you truly don't know the answer to. And when you do that, people feel that you're like, “Oh wow, you actually were sincere with that question.” You're not asking a question that you're hoping I answer in a certain way.
So, I think that curiosity questioning, into the place you're wanting to give feedback is… it just sets the groundwork for receptivity for the other person to hear well.
Justin - And I think in terms of receiving feedback, especially if you have a history with someone and giving and receiving feedback, you can validate even if the things they're saying aren't true. What I've noticed is… you can recognize, “But I do understand how you could see it that way. That's totally makes sense. That wasn't my intention, but it's totally valid that that was an option that you had to play with because I know our history and I know the things we've talked about in the past. I know the painful interactions.”
So, I think from a receiving standpoint, validating, even if the package isn't perfect, you're able to do that more easily, when you lean into feedback and when you recognize and see… because you're… with feedback, what you're really doing is, you're practicing looking through someone else's lens to go, “Oh, that's a way that what I just did could be interpreted.”
Shawn - That's right.
Justin - Not what I meant. Totally valid.
Shawn - Yes.
Justin - Totally valid.
And I think even if it's not an accurate point of feedback someone gives you for them to hear that they're not crazy is actually incredibly helpful.
Shawn - Yes.
Justin - And not, it doesn't exacerbate the problem.
Shawn - I had somebody come give me feedback one time. We were in the middle of a big conference, an event and I had some role in it. Somebody came up and they were trying to help me do something. And when I get in those moments and it's crunch time, I can get extremely focused and just cut to the chase. I'm not an external processor.
So, when somebody is going to say something and there's a lot of stress, I need to know the exact answer to the question. I need it concise, and I need it now.
The person was standing there, I was asking a question and they were externally processing.
Justin - Don't know what that's like at all.
Shawn - They were externally processing to get at the answer. And I just bottom lined it quickly. I was like, “Hey, just tell me, do I click here? Do I do this? What do I do?”
And then the person came to my office later and they said, “Hey, can I give you some feedback?” And I had no idea what they were about to say. I was like, “Sure, go ahead.”
And I can't say that it came out really well. There were other ways that it could have really… they could have smoothed the conversation in many ways. I did not respond well. I completely defended myself. I told them how their perspective was wrong, and I made the situation worse for sure. But I went away later and continued to think about it. And the feedback I got was spot on. It was exactly right. And it's, and this was probably 10 years ago, maybe longer.
And that story stays with me today because I still try to intentionally slow down in those moments when I know the stress is elevated to say, how am I communicating with people? How am I caring for people?... because of that feedback I was given in that moment.
So just like you said, it's easy to get the feedback and we can dismiss it if it wasn't given well. But the ability to take something that may not be packaged well, to still consider it can change our life. I would like to believe that that feedback I got that day has actually changed my life and therefore changed the lives of the people around me.
Justin - That's right.
Shawn - Because I do it differently.
Justin - That's right.
I want to circle back to something you touched on earlier about when someone maybe at a more ground level of the organization gives feedback. Two things to keep in mind. We said this earlier… that definitely takes courage for someone to give upward feedback.
Shawn - Yes.
Justin - The second thing is it actually communicates a level of trust that they're willing to say something.
Shawn - That's really good.
Justin - It may or may not actually be packaged well, but think through the lens of, “Hey, they trust you enough to risk.” This may or may not go well, and I'm willing to go there because I think this person I'm giving the feedback to would want to know or will be able to make it through. So, getting feedback that's constructive actually can be viewed through the lens of they trust you.
Shawn - That's right.
Justin - Because think about it. How often are you going to give feedback to someone that you're like, I don't trust them? Probably very rarely.
Shawn - Right.
Justin - Only if it gets to the level of like someone's going to get hurt if I don't say this.
Shawn - For sure.
Justin - The other thing is, in terms of how to give feedback, it's recognizing that whomever you're giving feedback to, whatever it is you're giving them feedback on, when they did that thing or said that comment in a meeting, people generally view themselves through the lens of I'm doing a noble thing.
Shawn - Right.
Justin - I am, for lack of a better phrase, I am the hero in this story. Nobody thinks that consciously, but that is what's going on in their mind. When you can remind yourself of that and see that, then you can recognize there's probably an intent here. It may be really buried.
Shawn - Right.
Justin - I got to dig a little bit, but there's probably a noble intent somewhere below the surface. So, when I can go in with that, I can recognize there's probably something that I'll find, that in the end, again, may not be accurate, may not be the full picture. Oh, but I can see now when I look through that lens, why this person might've said it. And again, it just becomes less of a speed bump for us to get over in terms of developing a feedback rich culture.
Shawn - Yes.
I heard somebody talking about… they use the phrase relationship with failure. And I've taken that even to mean relationship with feedback. And they talked about… in their home growing up, there was a culture that was rich with their relationship with failure was always about learning.
And when they'd come home from school and they'd sit at the dinner table and they were talking with their family and the question was, “How'd your day go? What went on here? What went on there?” To ever say that there was a failure in some way in the day was to say, and a new place of growth was exposed to me. And that person, it was a lady named Kristen Hadeed who went on to start a company, wrote a book.
She talks about feedback and failure, being in cultures rich with feedback and how people rise to those occasions when it's a culture that cultivates growth and learning and honesty and vulnerability.
But, I think it's important to remember. We both advocate for this is not unfettered tell people what's on your mind. It's… think through it and think through how can I say this for that person's benefit and say it in the most gracious, intentional way to look for an outcome of change? Not to get my way, not to be able to get it off my chest, not to do it because I want them to really have it and see it my way.
If it's not bathed in your own sense of this is a growth and learning environment for both of us, then hold back. Give it time until you change… to where you can give it really well, but then the same is true on the other side, really being able to receive it.
Justin - Yep. That's great.
Shawn - So, we want to encourage, kind of as a leader experiment again, today or in the coming week, take some time to reflect. If somebody gives you some feedback, whether or not you solicited the feedback… and obviously if you want to supercharge the experiment, go out and start asking people to give you feedback. Come out of a meeting and ask somebody you work with, “Hey, you have any feedback for me? How I did I do in that meeting?” Or let people know the areas you are focusing on, that developmental edge that Justin was talking about earlier.
But take some time when somebody gives you input or feedback, not to immediately respond to what you've just heard. Take a minute to pause and think through, “How can I actually approach this where I can learn more?” Utilizing that listening to learn. “What questions can I ask to give me a better understanding, to give me a perspective that's outside my own perspective?” And see how you might be able to respond in a new way and it might be able to change your thinking, giving you new perspective on how you handle things in the future.
Shawn – We appreciate you tuning in and hope you enjoyed the show. Before you take off, do us a quick favor, please subscribe and leave a review on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast platform.
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