Everyone, at some point in their professional development, wonders how they are doing. Feedback plays an important role in this self-awareness process. As individuals, we have our own perceptions as to how effective we believe we are in the workplace.
But what about the impact your behaviour has on others? Do they see the same qualities in you as you see in yourself?
If you have desires to improve yourself and climb the ladder of success, one of the most important elements of this journey is to be able to see yourself through the eyes of others. To know how your leadership style, communication style or perhaps your conflict style impacts others. Ds it encourage or discourage people? Ds it motivate or demotivate? Being able to look at ourselves through the eyes of others provides information essential to the self-development process.
Often what we mean to do is not what others see. Learning the difference can greatly enhance our self-awareness and improvement.
Due to the sometimes negative experiences individuals have had in processes like performance reviews; they often avoid asking for others’ opinions of themselves and their workstyles. Hence, the concept of “feedback” is often confused with “criticism”. This is a mistake.
Let me share my story with you…
Many years ago I was working in a direct selling organisation, managing a large group of people. I would present to well over 100 individuals on a weekly basis and worked a little more closely with a group of about 8 down line Managers, 4 up line Managers as well as a dozen peers. Feedback in this industry was encouraged and people would openly share their thoughts, opinions and recommendations.
After a period of time, I started to realise that a big chunk of the feedback was not actually helpful to me. From my peers and Managers, I would receive positive feedback combined with specifics about how I could improve, grow and develop. Yet other feedback I was receiving simply felt like criticism with no specifics, no balance and basically just felt negative. It felt like it was coming from people who basically just wanted to discourage me.
I recall lying in bed one morning thinking this was all getting too hard and it was knocking my self-confidence around. It was then I decided I simply needed to manage the feedback. So I set some boundaries around the feedback. They were:
- Only accept it from people I respected and admired;
- Those people whose lives or businesses were working
- Those people who were moving in the circles I wanted to move in.
- Those people who I believed genuinely wanted the best for me and would give me honest and balanced feedback.
For most of the feedback outside those boundaries, I let disappear into the ether. This had a much more positive effect on my growth and development.
So what I’m suggesting here is to seek out feedback, but set your own boundaries around who you want to receive it from. I’m not suggesting you only seek out feedback from those people that really like you and will tell you what you want to hear, but balanced with both the positive and the areas for development.
Audit the sources of your feedback!
The intention of feedback needs to come from a space of genuinely wanting to help people grow and develop. If the recipient knows that, it will be a positive experience.
There are various ways of receiving feedback; from formal through to casual. Some of the formal ways are through the use of a 360 ° assessment whereby you complete a questionnaire for yourself and your manager/s, peers and direct reports answer the same questions about you. A report is produced and the results of this type of feedback are given in a supportive coaching session.
Other types of feedback are through performance reviews, through a mentor or coach, or informally with a group of people that you respect and value their feedback.
As I’m writing this article I can imagine that some of you might feel a little anxious. I can assure you, feeling that way is quite normal but something you need to overcome.
This element is so very valuable for your growth and development that the fear behind it needs to be overcome. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly something you can do. When you really think about it, what are you afraid of? It’s quite simply hearing something negative about ourselves, and really what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? You may disagree with it, but here I’d be cautious about that because you may disagree, but you may also not know it about yourself.
Introducing the Johari Window…
The Johari Window is a communication model that is used to improve understanding between individuals. The word”Johari” is taken from the names of Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, who developed the model in 1955.
Quadrant 1: Known Self or Open Self
This is the information about the person – behaviour, attitude, feelings, emotions, knowledge, experience, skills, views, etc – known by the person (‘the self’) and known by the group (‘others’)
Quadrant 2: Blind self
This is what’s known about the person by others but is unknown by the person themselves. By seeking feedback from others, the aim should be to reduce this area and thereby increase the open area i.e. to increase self-awareness. This blind area is not an effective or productive space for individuals or groups. The blind area could also be referred to as ignorance about oneself. An example is when someone repeats a word or statement over and over like “I guess”. After a while, that is all the audience can hear, causing them to miss the balance of the conversation. Yet the person delivering the message isn’t aware this is happening.
Quadrant 3: Hidden Self
This is what’s known to us but kept hidden from, and therefore unknown, to others. This hidden self represents emotions, fears, information, agendas, secrets, likes and dislikes that for whatever reason, he/she chooses not to disclose. It’s natural to keep personal information private, however when it ‘s work related, it’s so much better to be exposed in the open area.
Quadrant 4: Unknown Self
The final quadrant contains information, feelings, dormant talents, abilities etc. that are unknown to the person and unknown to others. Large unknown areas would typically be expected in younger people, and people who lack experience or self-belief.
What you do with that feedback is the next vital step in your journey. I have coached hundreds of Managers and have seen on many occasions whereby the feedback was given then filed away into the filing cabinet. Really what’s the point? It’s just a waste of time, money and devalues the people who spent their time giving the feedback.
I always encourage the people I work with to go back to the people who gave the feedback and thank them. The next thing is to do something with the feedback. A desire or wish is simply that unless you take some action.
Create a development plan and set some goals. Document the areas you want to improve with specifics of how you will go about it and put timelines on everything.
If people see you actually making the effort, let alone changing, it sends such a positive message.