Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

How to Make Feedback Your Friend

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One of the last leaders I had in my career – one of my favorites and a true servant leader – would often say that we needed to see feedback as our friend. I’m not sure how many people can really say that they feel that way however. I know receiving performance feedback was always stressful for me.

In the first half of my career at a Fortune 50 organization, the department I worked in didn’t have monthly “One on One” meetings between leaders and their direct reports, nor did we get mid or end of year performance feedback. The closest thing I received to a written feedback report as a leader was in the “supervisor” section of what was called an employee opinion survey, which was usually conducted every three years.
When I joined the IT department half way through my career, all of that changed. In addition to the employee opinion survey feedback (since the survey was conducted that year), I also received a 360-feedback report, and mid and end of year anonymous performance feedback from people (direct reports, co-workers, customers) selected by my leader. Talk about overwhelming! And, as I’ve written before, it really didn’t matter how many positive comments I would receive, I would always go first to, and focus on, the constructive feedback, usually under the question “How can Bill improve his performance?” I always found opening up my feedback report to be stressful, because you never knew what you might find in there.
However, going back to my leader who encouraged us to see feedback as our friend, here are three ways that you can do that. Accurate and honest performance feedback can:

  1. Confirm what you already know about yourself. This could fall under both positive and what we would perceive as critical, negative or constructive performance feedback. When it is positive, we can be affirmed that we are doing something well and it has been recognized. When it is constructive, it can serve as a reminder to work on some things that we already knew about, but either hadn’t worked on, or still had some work to do on.
  2. Bring to light something you were not aware of. On the positive side, someone may point out something you were doing well that you didn’t even realize you were doing. On the constructive side, you may be surprised at feedback that points out something that you need to work on that you weren’t even aware of. I always found this feedback the most difficult to receive.
  3. Give you things to work on to improve your performance. This is the most helpful aspect of performance feedback. Whether or not you were aware of the items pointed out in need of improvement in your performance feedback report, this is the point where you can make the feedback you receive your friend. I would use the constructive feedback in formulating my goals for the following performance period. If something was pointed out that I needed to improve or do differently, I would write a goal around it. Others may choose to add a goal or objective to their (Individual Development Plan (IDP). If we use feedback, particularly the feedback we receive about areas that we need to improve or grow in, we can truly make feedback our friend.

What is your experience in receiving performance feedback? Do you receive feedback on a regular basis? If so, how do you respond to it? Do you see it as your friend in helping you to grow and improve? If you don’t receive it, why not ask your leader for feedback? I would often end my “One on One” meetings asking if there was anything I could do to improve.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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