Feedback comes to employees and managers in one of three different forms: positive, critical or toxic, but rarely constructive. I've found that you can get just as much developmental insight and organizational value out of the occasional positive feedback as you can out of structured critical feedback situations. It's easy, however, to miss out on those opportunities because positive feedback is usually unexpected when it comes.
FYI: Research consistently reveals that two factors are necessary for the development of expertise: consistent and persistent practice, and regular feedback or coaching. Even when the organizational environment is highly motivational, it's often difficult to get feedback, much less useful developmental feedback.
As a result, skills for getting more out of feedback, no matter its genre, are a developmental imperative. Furthermore, the research on self-awareness and knowledge of one's performance makes clear that without feedback we won't understand ourselves, our strengths or our weaknesses. Without this information, it's nearly impossible for singificant growth.
Typically positive feedback comes in what I refer to as a generic stroke: "Gee, Kris, you did a fine job with that new client. We got the project. We really appreciate your work." Or, "Mark, your first experience as a project manager was just outstanding. Keep up the good work." Even a superficial analysis of those two common statements reveals nothing that you can use for future development.
So how do you make the most of positive feedback?
The value of positive feedback is not only that it gives you a window into what your boss values, but it can also provide you with added insight to skills, tactics or strategies that are transferable to other settings. You'll want to take the following steps:
- Express thanks for the feedback
- Ask for permission to talk about the positives
- Clarify the feedback concretely.
- Explain briefly the skills you used.
- On some occasions, ask what you could have done still better.
- Make certain you're clear on the importance or context of your performance.
- Express thanks once again.
Then, debrief feedback conversations to yourself. A key question to keep in the front lobes for use after all performance input is this: "What did I learn from this?" Keep track of those gains. They can be very useful for your future.
I'm currently working on an e-book on how to receive feedback that will deal with all the feedback genre, and also provide concrete protocols and scripts for managing those situations. Watch for it.
What did I miss? What questions do you have?