Improvement through Feedback

Seeking constructive feedback or the 360-degree feedback loop is one of the most trending buzzwords in the spheres of personal development and career management. Nonetheless, it remains an area where people find great difficulty in putting into practice.

Here are a few pointers to becoming a practitioner in applying constructive feedback towards your personal growth.

First, we must understand that it is a painful process – a very painful one. This basic understanding gets rid of the fluff and emotional precariousness about what it is, and cements the veracity of the process- which is, your development. Imagine, submitting a coursework without proof reading and making improvements? Although, the student means well and puts in hours of writing, it’s very likely to not be up to scratch, even with the best of intentions.

Secondly, it is a hallmark of excellence as the individual consciously sees himself as an ongoing work in progress and harnesses beneficial feedback only obtainable by identifying common trends between viewpoints, thereby honing down on development areas- which is 50% of the problem solved. For example, the great Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater (managing $160 Billion in assets) built his company from scratch, based on his principle of ‘idea meritocracy’. This principle placed every idea conceived within the company, to thoughtful unemotional criticism, which modified concepts to solutions which disrupted the financial industry. In his words,

We believe that thoughtful, unemotional disagreement by independent thinkers can be converted into believability-weighted decision making that is smarter and more effective than the sum of its parts’.

Thirdly, it takes courage and deliberate practice. Hal Elrod, the author of one of my favourite books, Miracle morning, discussed his painful feedback email which resulted to a radical change in his life. It’s one thing to participate in mandatory feedback sessions (e.g. Performance Development Reviews, Stage gate reviews etc.), and yet another to seek them out proactively- which is what I advocate for. As with all things, with practice it becomes a habit (18 months is a scientific ballpark estimate for turning activities into habits).

When giving feedback, you can leverage the Commend-Recommend-Commend (CRC) model which commends a person’s positive attributes, recommends development areas, and commends a person’s positive attributes again. The model is like a sandwich; it delivers a good meal with the main source of protein (for development) sandwiched in between the bread.

We all love to give feedback; it’s taking it that hurts. Here’s where I’m getting at.

In receiving feedback, it’s normal for emotions to cloud our judgement and limit our perspective of seeing the bigger picture, however, we must work on developing a level of emotional intelligence (self-awareness and self-management) to draw the resulting benefits- only enjoyed by a few. The ‘Reflect-Respond-Accept/Reject’ model describes a way to theoretically deconstruct constructive feedback, but in all honesty, for this model to be of any use, it must be underpinned by a level of emotional intelligence and maturity for it to work.

Cheers to the bitter pill of constructive criticism and a drink of ‘not taking yourself too seriously’; though unpleasant, it cures your ailment.

‘Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things’ – Winston Churchill

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