72% of line managers in our current research study say they don't feel confident giving feedback, and only 7% of line managers said their employer had ever given them training on how to deliver feedback in ways that are safe and that inspire performance improvements.
So it's no wonder we leave it until December.
This episode is for you if you're up for taking the next step towards mastery in your feedback skills, you're on a mission to inspire and empower your teams, but you secretly dread December's annual appraisals.
What You'll Cover Today On How To Master Your Feedback Skills:
- the little-known truth about how most managers feel about feedback
- why some people thrive on feedback and others dread it
- what our research shows about how our inner attitude, as leaders, impacts the effectiveness of the feedback
- the tangible risks of sub-standard feedback
- why we need to ditch the 360 degree performance review
- simple things we can start today, to make feedback something people value and even look forward to
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Prefer To Read? Here's The Transcript:
This text was AI-generated, please excuse any spelling mistakes.
Welcome to episode 30 of the Soultuitive Leaders podcast. And today we are talking about why waiting until the end of the year for annual appraisals is a mistake, and what to do if you secretly dread them as a line manager or a leader. I know as I'm recording this, it's February. Why on earth am I talking about appraisals? Because we need to shift the way we're running them.
We've been researching this I want to share with you in today's episode the latest from our research study. Practical actions you can implement today to shift yourself towards feedback mastery. So there's a real problem with feedback. This was a big deal on LinkedIn recently, talking about, for example, whether feedback is fair on women and how it's delivered differently to men by men, to women, by women.
Putting all of that aside, the research I've been doing over the last six months on this shows that 72% of line managers say they do not feel confident giving feedback. And yet it's part of the job. Only 7% of line managers and leaders said their employer had ever given them training on how to deliver feedback in ways that ensures psychological safety and actually inspire performance improvements. And a whacking 96% of line managers said they worry about how the other person will take it if they have to give constructive criticism. And 68% said they overthink feedback in general, with only a third of line managers saying they ever enjoy giving it, even if it's positive.
The rest don't. So what we're going to cover in today's episode is the little known truth about how most managers feel about feedback. Why some people thrive on feedback and others simply hate it. What our research shows about how our inner attitude as leaders impacts the effectiveness of feedback, the tangible risks of substandard feedback. Why, I personally think, based on our research and my 20 years in this field, we need to ditch this 360 degree performance review and simple things.
We can start today to make feedback something people value and perhaps even look forward to. So let's start with looking at how most line managers feel about feedback. Most of them dread it, and those that don't tend to spend a lot of their time very confused about why their team mates and colleagues hate it so much. Now, feedback is an essential part of being a manager. In fact, it's part of what can help us to grow and thrive.
I remember when I was in my teens, I was really good at ballet. And whilst I probably never would have gone to ballet school, it was a real passion of mine. And one day I just quit. My mum couldn't understand. It wasn't that she'd spent a decade scraping my hair back into that ever so painful barnaut that I'd had to show up multiple times a week and push my body to its limit.
The reason I quit is I felt invisible. The teacher never gave me feedback. And one day, many years later, she was actually running a disco class. I'm showing my age and she asked me why did I quit the ballet lesson? She said, are you Clare?
You were the best student in the class. And I said, It's because you never gave me feedback. You gave everybody else lots of feedback to improve, but you never gave any to me. And her answer was, well, Clare, you were already doing so well. I didn't think I needed to say anything.
And in that moment, I realised how important it was to be able to get feedback, to learn and to grow, and that being able to improve our skills in something is actually a core need for a huge majority of human beings. So I quit the ballet I loved because I was fed up of not getting feedback. That wasn't my rational thing at the time, but actually it kind of was. And what we're seeing at the moment is people who do not feel that they're able to fulfil their potential at work, who aren't getting that feedback, are quitting and going to somewhere where they will get it. Or if somebody's running Imposter Syndrome, and this one is incredibly common, they actually need the feedback more than most people because they've lost the ability to be able to assess their own performance.
For example, there's this thing in Motivational Traits Work by Noam Chomsky, known as Meta Programs in NLP, about how we decide whether we've done a good job. Whether somebody's internally referenced or externally referenced, it's a sliding scale. You can be a bit of each. But somebody who's strongly internally referenced tends to treat feedback as for information only. It's like, yeah, okay, that's what you think, that's great, but I know I'm doing a good job.
Somebody who's strongly externally referenced cannot compute. They can't process, they can't evaluate whether they've done a good job, and they're completely reliant on external feedback. And one of the things that happens with Impostor Syndrome is it moves somebody along the scale to becoming more externally referenced. So if they don't get feedback reassuring them that they're doing well, then they are at risk of believing their own in a dialogue that they're doing badly because they've lost that self referencing system to be able to evaluate their performance. But feedback done badly comes with risks.
There's a saying for those of you that grew up in the UK, I don't know if it's used elsewhere in the world. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. So this is really flawed. So if I mess up, just try again. Yeah, the meaning of that phrase is pick yourself back up.
Don't just sit there and quit. But the problem is, if we keep trying without having figured out what we did wrong or what we could improve or what extra support and resources we might need, we're very likely to get the same result. Einstein apparently said it's one of the signs of insanity is trying the same thing over again and expecting different results. Say that repeated trying requires feedback.
And if we're looking at developing our team members as line managers and leaders, we need to be able to give them quality feedback to help them move up what psychologists call the learning ladder. The learning ladder officially has four stages. I added a fifth, but the first one is unconscious incompetence, where we don't know we can't do something. Then we have conscious incompetence, where we realise we can't do something. So if we look at being a toddler, it might be we don't have a clue that we can't drive a car, because driving a car isn't a concept we even know.
Then one day we realise we can't drive a car, then we have lessons and we move into what's called conscious competence, where you have to really focus on everything and concentrate to be able to drive that car. Then there comes a point where we suddenly realise we've been listening to the radio having a conversation with the person in the passenger seat, and we've navigated for 30 miles and we have no conscious memory of it. We are in unconscious competence. We're doing it on autopilot. And then I add in a fifth level, which is mastery, which is where we've really nailed something.
And we can intuitively do it exactly the best way at the best time without even thinking about it. And our job as managers and leaders is to help people move up that ladder because we're constantly growing. The world is changing so quickly and we need to be developing our skills to fulfil our potential. So bad feedback, or lack of feedback means people don't develop, they don't perform to their potential. They come back to their annual performance review every December or whenever your organisation runs them, thinking it's another year of stagnating.
And maybe you're feeling frustrated that they haven't improved or changed. You'll find your rising stars leave, like me quitting the ballet I loved, because there comes a point where you just get fed up of being ignored. Anyone running Imposter Syndrome is likely to be experiencing even more stress, selfdoubt lack of confidence and even heading towards burnout because they need more feedback to help them feel safe and to evaluate their performance. It ends up with everybody dreading December and performance reviews become perfunctory. So what is bad feedback?
Bad feedback is the kind of feedback that isn't really actionable, that leaves the person feeling pretty awful, that maybe they don't even identify with it, they can't see what it is that you're talking about, and it can trigger inner critic Imposter Syndrome, self sabotage. I remember when I wrote my second novel, my editor sent me back her edits and it was 32 pages long of things that were wrong, broke and needed changing. All completely valid. I didn't pick up that manuscript for three months. I just couldn't face it.
Then one day she messaged me saying, hey, Clare, when's the book coming out? We got a deadline. Let's crack on with this. And I said, but you said the book was awful. And she just was completely confused.
She said, no, the book's brilliant, but I thought you knew that, so I didn't feel the need to say that. That's why I gave you the feedback points to help you make it better. Most people need reassurance and they need the constructive criticism. In small doses, bad feedback can destroy somebody's confidence and their career. So why do some people thrive on feedback and others dread it?
Here's the thing. The way we feel about giving feedback reflects the way we feel about receiving it, and we project that onto the recipient. I want to share with you two examples people have worked with in the last year on feedback. One is Jonathan. His view is bring it on every single day.
Give me feedback, help me grow, help me improve, help me perform. Rip to shreds what I was just doing. Help me get better. And then Sarah I was working with last year, who's in a C-suite role, who is absolutely petrified of feedback. Now, Jonathan will give feedback every single day as well, because he's so comfortable with it.
Sarah will completely avoid it until the absolute deadline of the annual performance review. And this is what our research shows about how our inner attitude as leaders impacts the effectiveness of our feedback. With Jonathan, he's completely comfortable no matter how somebody gives the feedback to him, whereas with Sarah, it could rock her world. So where we talked earlier about the internally versus externally referenced issue, Jonathan is very strongly internally referenced. You give him feedback, he tries it on the size.
If it fits great, he takes it on. If it doesn't, he just lets it go. Sarah was running Imposter Syndrome when we were working together. Externally referenced, the feedback feels very personal to her and it can really shake her.
Since someone in Sarah's position is probably stuck on what I call the praise criticism rollercoaster, they only feel as worthy and as good and confident as the last piece of feedback they got. And for her, it meant that she wasn't publishing the papers that she was meant to be publishing. She wasn't speaking at conferences. She was really holding back because feedback and the fear of criticism was playing such a major part in her life. I'm pleased to report that's no longer the case for her.
She's cleared Imposter Syndrome, but she's still nowhere near where Jonathan is. She's got a much more balanced view on feedback and how others might receive it. And this is one of the reasons why we need to ditch the 360 degree performance review. Over the last 20 years, I have so often seen these used by people who've got an axe to grind. But also, these people have not had any training, usually on how to give feedback.
And it opens us up to a deeper level of feedback and potentially constructive criticism that might feel safe for us. So 360 degree performance reviews can be great, but only if people have actually had training in how to give feedback effectively and how to make sure that we're not projecting our inner pain or resentment onto that feedback. And a huge part of the way we experience feedback, whether we're giving it or receiving it, is about the way we talk to ourselves. So you can tell a huge amount about someone's inner critic by listening to the way they criticise others. So what's the solution for this?
There are a few things I want to suggest today. The first one is you need to deal with your own feedback baggage that is so often Imposter Syndrome, or it might be a really painful feedback episode that shook you, that created a trauma. Get support, clear out the Imposter Syndrome, deal with the inner critic, get training, support, coaching, yell, I've got plenty I can share to help you there. Make sure you've cleared that out, because then you're able to give feedback from a position of feeling comfortable in your own skin, and that transforms the way you give and receive feedback. Similarly, if you're more where Jonathan was, you need to up the stakes on your empathy.
You need to understand that if somebody else doesn't feel the way you do about feedback, you're super confident. Feedback giving can actually trigger all sorts of issues for them. So don't impose your experience of feedback on others. Jonathan loved it, Sarah hated it. The person on the receiving end will feel that vibration.
But also, if we secretly hate giving and receiving feedback ourselves, we'll project that fear on to others. Then, when I'm running workshops, I have a feedback mastery workshop. For example, for line managers, it's Half day online live. I absolutely love teaching this stuff. I teach the tabs of giving feedback.
So in their simplest essence, tabs, tabs. Timely, actionable, behavioural, specific. Most feedback that's given is super vague. It's given so far after the time the thing happened that the person can barely remember it. It's often more identity based, like, you are good at this, you were bad at that, rather than talking about the behaviour.
And it's not really actionable. So, as I say, I teach this in much more detail in the workshop. But behaviour that is positive and strong is timely, actionable, behavioural and specific. And then the key is, whenever possible, do it right there and then. But you need to get the person's permission.
Even as a line manager, we do not have consent. Psychological safety at work, very important to just barge in and insist that somebody listens to our feedback. They might not be in a headspace to process it, it might not be appropriate, they might be about to go into a meeting where actually, that could really knock them. But doing it as close as possible to the event that you're giving feedback on has a huge difference. I mean, after all, if somebody's messed something up or they've done something brilliantly that you want them to repeat, waiting 9/10 months until next December to tell them is a real missed opportunity.
So, in my Feedback Mastery workshop for line managers, we go into much more detail on this, but also we look at the three pillars of feedback. So, to create performance change, feedback needs to be motivating and inspiring, rather than something that makes somebody feel bad, it needs to set empowering objectives that actually allow people to grow without the fear. And believe me, that is actually possible. And those objectives need to be Imposter Syndrome safe. And we also teach how to manage your inner state as the feedback giver.
Now, in our current research study, only 12% of line managers have scored high on this, which means a shocking 88% of line managers find it hard to manage their own inner emotional state around giving feedback, which directly impacts that entire discussion and the recipient. We go into the two types of fears. So what's really going on in someone's mind before you give them feedback? During and after. And we look at the neuroscience of how people process feedback and how you can then use this to create positive behavioural change with very little effort from the recipient.
We look at how to get off the praise criticism roller coaster, both yourself and for your team members. The one shift that unlocks feedback as a potent, inspirational personal development tool. And it's the opposite of what most of us have been taught. And we cover step by step strategies for day to day feedback, as well as annual performance reviews. Because, really, the annual review, the annual appraisal, should be something that sums up the feedback that's been given and received throughout the year, rather than a once and done great big surprise.
And remember, if you're giving feedback and it floors someone and you know you did it the right way, then they might need help with Imposter Syndrome. So please get in touch with me. Talk about our hybrid coaching programme, the Imposter Syndrome Bootcamp, which can create huge breakthroughs very easily for people in just a few short weeks. So your actions for today, your resources, are want to find out your feedback mastery score? Go and take my free score card, which gives you your score, actually on those three pillars, and a personalised action plan for what you can start doing today.
The link to do that is in the show notes. If you have struggled with dreading appraisals giving or receiving them, there's a link in the show notes to an article I've written recently on how to deal with performance review anxiety. If Imposter Syndrome is driving what's going on for you with feedback, make sure you've read the book Ditching Imposter Syndrome. It's one I prepared earlier. The audiobook is coming very, very soon, so a heads up there.
And if you'd like to dive in more deeply on this, make sure you get on the waiting list for the next time I run the Feedback Mastery for line managers and leaders. Course, the link to that is in the show notes, so I hope you found that useful today. I'd love to see you over on LinkedIn, where they're discussing this topic and looking at feedback mastery. The link to that thread is in the show notes and I'll be back next week with Episode 31, which is all about the resilience backlash, why it's become such a dirty word, and its secret role in burnout. I hope you have an amazing week.
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