Don’t Take This Personally: Feedback

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

In my early days at Fast Company, one of my new direct reports had been with the brand for 10 years and had a solid track record of success. On the other side of that, she was challenging. She did NOT like change. She did NOT welcome a new boss suggesting new ways of approaching business. She thought given her tenure she should be left to her own devices. She often would say ‘NO, this is how we do it here ’. I’ve long believed in radical candor. Radical sounds dramatic, but it is simply giving feedback that is given promptly, directly and wrapped with EMPATHY Kim Scott's model of Radical Candor visualized in the above image, and shared in the video link below, is rooted in caring personally and challenging directly. So I flew cross country to deliver my feedback. To say it didn’t go well is an understatement. It appeared my feedback did not get the memo about her exceptionalism and indifference to managing under a new business model. She walked out of the meeting, went right to HR and ultimately quit after holding us hostage (a good topic for another writing). Needless to say, my feedback was counterproductive. Many hate receiving feedback. Most dislike giving it. As managers, it's our job. I’m very direct - sometimes to a fault. My husband not so much. He’ll wait on giving feedback to a point it festers into a bruise that is hard to heal. Both can produce long term negative consequences. In a recent Gallup poll, 92% of people agreed that ‘negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance .’*  If performance improvement was a discussion away, why are we still so reluctant?  The most productive feedback is:

  • Co-created

  • Empathetic

  • Curious

.....and comes with validation and a mutual place of trust.  Feedback can turn into a grenade tossed over the desk. But when we sit on their side of the desk to see it from where they sit we can begin with validating and getting to work... together. Being on the same side of desk is moving with empathy. Empathy is our ability and willingness to take notice of and be sensitive to other people’s needs and feelings. When you sit on their side of the desk and you know their strengths and weaknesses you can use them in your feedback to produce better results. This is compassionate feedback. Language also makes a difference. Empathetic language that’s curious looks like:

  • Instead of saying ‘here’s where you need to improve’ try ‘here’s what’s worked best for me and here’s why’. 

  • Instead of ‘good job’ why not go deeper and ask them to share 3 things that really worked for them and ask them how they felt at the time. 

  • Instead of ‘you need to be more responsive’ why not say ‘when I don’t hear from you, I worry that we’re not on the same page.’

Creating a culture of trust is also key to better feedback outcomes. This isn't easy, and I'm always working towards a more trusting environment. I show up for others. I treat people the way I want to be treated. I do what I say. Most important, I’m open to receiving feedback. Feedback that runs safely both ways is a large ingredient to success. Feedback that simply moves the deck chairs around the Titanic to keep things orderly doesn’t solve the real issue of nailing them down. My feedback that day at Fast Company hit like the moment the Titanic met the iceberg. The chairs went flying because I had not taken enough time to put myself in her seat. She didn’t believe I had her best interest at heart. She thought I was dictatorial and even mean (according to HR) and I came with a checklist of wrong doing. Co-creating what you and the feedback recipient needs to grow and learn will always produce better results than dictating. Inviting the recipient into the problem-solving process makes way for a list of constructive next steps versus a checklist of wrongdoing. I flew across country and learned it was on me to change the path forward for both her, me and the business Co-creating begins after you ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you considered where they are coming from?

  • Do you know their situation?

  • What’s the intent of the feedback?

  • What outcome is expected?

  • How will that outcome take hold?

  • What will I do to help produce that outcome?

  • What responsibility will I take on to support them?  

Feedback is a muscle that needs to be exercised. Just like exercise, we need to do it everyday. Let’s work it out together. 

A few of my favorite things this week When I Decided to Slow Down: HERE The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss: HERE Give Compassionate Feedback While Still Being Constructive: HERE Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art of Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit: HERE

Email me @ for a complimentary 20-mins to uncover your Slight Edge. Please share this blog with someone who would enjoy it. Follow me on Instagram:  @christinalangdonbosslady

If you found this helpful, I would love if you would share it: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


Recent Posts

See All