...at the same time, responsive to feedback.”
We find this distinction between criticism and feedback to be an interesting topic as we coach our client leaders through the many changes occurring in their businesses. In a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment, it is easy to take any negative input, whether from internal or external sources, as a personal affront. The skill of the leader is to know the difference between criticism and feedback as the title quote from Deepak Chopra suggests. His entire quote above is, “The biggest insight is that if you want to be successful, you have to be immune to criticism, but, at the same time, responsive to feedback, which are two different things.
In our leadership and business coaching practice, we routinely facilitate coaching around the differences between the two so we are using this month’s discussion to share some thoughts on how leaders can effectively leverage this difference to stay focused on providing feedback in lieu of criticism to their teams. The foundation of these ideas comes from the work of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University.
So, for leaders to provide effective feedback they must:
- Focus on what they want, versus what they don’t want ~ In light of an issue or challenging situation, it is all too easy to launch into all the things about the situation that the leader does not want or like. While it makes sense to call out the actions that do not add value to the situation, a leader’s feedback must focus on what they do want or need going forward. Even starting out with criticism with the intent to eventually get to the feedback can fall flat if the negative is too much of the focus of the conversation!
- Focus on the desired future, versus the past ~ In a similar vein as focusing the conversation on what is needed, the leader’s feedback must focus on the desired future in order to promote forward change and progress. By focusing on the desired future, leaders can avoid the trap of getting caught up in a situation that is likely emotionally charged, by bringing up past issues that may not even be related to the current situation!
- Focus on desired strengths, versus weaknesses ~ Ask most anyone to self-critique without detailed prompting and more often than not they conjure up their blind spots more so than their strengths. When leaders provide feedback that leverages team member strengths needed to overcome the existing blind spots, they support a more balanced and productive outcome to the feedback process. It supports the team member’s efficacy in their belief they can respond positively to the feedback!
- Focus on inspiring forward progress, versus deflating in the now ~ The operative word here is inspiring as feedback done well will have that level of impact on the team members receiving the feedback. This does not suggest the change needed is not discussed in detail. It does suggest, similar to focusing on strengths, the conversation leaves the team members feeling as if they clearly have the ability to improve based on the leader’s feedback!
- Focus on the “we” solution, versus “you” are the problem ~ When leaders provide feedback that creates a “we” solution, it negates a feeling of isolation by the team members receiving the feedback. It is far too easy for insecure leaders, either consciously or sub-consciously, to isolate errant team members as a problem on the team. It is especially important in this case for leaders to realize when mistakes on the team occur, the leaders themselves carry a key part of the ownership of creating and supporting the “we” solution!
The second part of the Deepak Chopra quote reads, “When you are not immune to criticism, you take it personally. You will be offended for the rest of your life, and that will interfere with anything you want to do. At the same time, it is important to be responsive to feedback, because, sometime, the critics are right, as long as you’re not offended.” As leaders, it is crucial to learn to provide effective feedback to their teams as the means to achieve desired results and sustainable success!
How is your team receiving your feedback? As criticism? If you are not sure, we can help!