09 May

1. The transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source.

2.  A rumbling, whining, or whistling sound resulting from an amplified or broadcast signal (such as music or speech) that has been returned as input and retransmitted. 

Is it any wonder that we use the same word to describe constructive criticism and that ear-splitting, screeching sound that happens when a microphone gets too close to a speaker?  

They both can cause a similar internal cringe and instinctual movement away from the sound.  Constructive criticism tends to cause sweaty palms and racing hearts, and unfortunately, many leaders take a passive approach to delivering feedback to attempt to avoid the discomfort. But feedback does not have to be a painful process and can be your most powerful tool in creating engaged and motivated team members.  Learning to understand feedback and its benefits and challenges can help us all be better at work and at home. 

Understanding the role that neurochemistry plays in our conversations is a valuable tool when learning how best to give and get feedback. Receiving feedback sparks a physiological response in our bodies that might explain why we shy away from feedback so much.  “When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors.” (Judith & Richard Glaser, HBR) This release of cortisol is similar to what happens when the brain engages the “fight or flight” response and can cause a person to be uncharacteristically emotional or reactive.  Add to all of this that the effects of cortisol linger in the body for up to 26 hours and you have a recipe for a negative relationship to criticism of any kind.  And while you cannot change how the body’s autonomic sympathetic nervous response, you can help program the body to see feedback in a different light.  

Feedback without relationship is a recipe for disaster.

 For feedback to be the most effective, three things need to be in place:  authority, credibility and trust.  Feedback outside of a relationship based on these three elements is exceedingly difficult to onboard and apply.  Intentionally setting about to strengthen relationships within an organization create a foundation for feedback to be exchanged and accepted. 

Build feedback into the culture.

 Many leaders are uncomfortable giving and receiving feedback and, to make themselves more comfortable, they procrastinate or push off offering feedback until either an annual review or a situation has escalated to emergent proportions.  One way to inoculate individuals to the stress response that occurs when receiving constructive criticism, is to build it into the daily culture.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to use weekly one on one meetings as an opportunity to address feedback of any kind.  As a leader, asking for specific and timely feedback on a regular basis can also build a culture where feedback is not just accepted, but sought after as a means for improvement. 

If approached with the proper mindset, constructive feedback is a powerful tool to help create engaged and efficient teams and does not need to cause stress or discomfort.  Creating strong relationships based on trust build a solid foundation that allow for the best use of feedback and create an environment that diffuses any stress that might be related to it. 

Do you have a culture of feedback? Let’s talk about ways companies and teams of all sizes can build continuous and developmental feedback into every day work lives. Call us today at 866.442.3387 or visit us online: www.deependstrategies.com.