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How To Make Feedback Sessions Work for YOU

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Formal workplace feedback can be a tough nut to crack. Considering the contrasting perspectives of the givers and receivers of feedback, the amount of openness to ideas can vary, as can the trust factor between the parties. In my recent article Openness To Influence: The Factors To Consider Before Receiving Feedback, I offered some DRIVEN client-tested insight into the benefits of curiosity on the part of the recipient of feedback, while breaking down the personality types the receiver can expect to encounter. The goal is to make you more comfortable with receiving feedback by considering the common ground you share with the giver and what intuitions or outlooks they will likely come to the table with.

From there, let’s take a look at what you can control going into your feedback sessions, and the ways you can prepare for and “show up” during these essential meetings. It will require you to look at your career with some perspective, zooming out to see not only your present, but where you came from and where you’d like to go.

The Pre-Mortem

Someone else’s assessment of “what went wrong” and “what went right” for you this year must not dictate the conclusions you draw. Take 10 minutes to create your own feedback report before your feedback session. If you’re like most of us, you’ll be way harder on yourself than anyone in your workplace would be. Be thoughtful about the past year by asking yourself some specific questions:

What were your goals?

How did you feel about them when they were created 12 months ago?

How did you manage them?

What have you learned?

What turned out well?

What were some of the roadblocks you encountered?

How did you manage those roadblocks?

What would this year’s “self” tell last year’s self?

A Quick Look Forward

Next, take 10 minutes to look ahead to one year from now. What will you want to be doing? What challenges would you like to have surmounted? What areas of development would you like to have mastered? What might your future self say to yourself today? Considering these questions will help you set some professional, achievable goals for yourself.

The Current Self

You’ve thought about where you’ve been, how far you’ve come, and have set your sites on the future, one year out. Now, bring yourself back to the present and consider how you’ll walk into the feedback meeting. How do you want to show up? What impression do you want to leave on the people responsible for giving you feedback? How do you want to feel in the moment? Consider how you’ll listen, and be in control of how you’ll react or respond during the meeting. And never lose sight that self-awareness is essential. As Van Gogh famously said, “Our emotions are the captains of our lives, and we obey them without realizing it”. If you’re not intentional about how you show up, you won’t be taking advantage of a special opportunity— the equivalent of meeting with your most important client with spinach in your teeth.

Of course you’re sitting up straight right now, no? Worry not….no mirror will be needed for an internal self-check before your next feedback session, or truly, any meeting. In a moment before your encounter, simply ask yourself how you’re feeling. It could be in the elevator on your way to the meeting room or just a minute of quiet at your desk before you join the videoconference. Use that moment to zero in on your emotional state. Are you anxious vs excited? Feeling defensive rather than hopeful? This is your chance to tap into your neurochemistry and shift your energy to the “excited and hopeful” end of the spectrum, since, in an anxious or defensive state, you won’t be able to intellectually hear what others are saying. You won’t learn anything, and worse, might be tempted to say things that come off as defensive.

Related: How to Sharpen Your Social Skills with Two Distinct Listening Styles

A Smooth Shift

For once, the shift from anxious to excited is both simple and easy, but takes practice. It comes down to remaining curious— easy as that! Maintain a curiosity about what others are saying, examples of their points, and how you can learn more about their thought process. You’ll be keeping your mind open, and thus, your prefrontal cortex engaged. This will also stabilize your emotions, since curiosity thwarts amygdala hijacks! Start employing that curiosity function in your brain TODAY. As you feel yourself becoming impatient, frustrated, defensive or anxious, get curious. This everyday practice will lead to walking in “eager for the opportunity” to learn what’s going well, what’s not and what you’ll need help, guidance and perspective with.

In my follow-up article, you’ll be inspired to open up your curiosity towards techniques that will defang the almighty “formal review” and result in more organic and effective feedback.

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