Personal feedback and what I’ve learnt
This post came off the back of a recent executive coaching session I had where we spent time focussing on quarterly feedback I requested at the end of March. The purpose of me writing this is for two main reasons: In the hope someone receiving some feedback will benefit from having read this and also for me to share more about myself. As the author these are all my own views and perspectives.
I thought I was comfortable working with feedback and the culture of how feedback is asked for, shared and acted upon in a complex agile environment. I was wrong and soon realised that I had been desensitised to feedback loops, cycles and methods on a personal level.
Before the session
I sent out the questions below using google forms:
- How I can be even more effective as a leader and Delivery Manager?
2. What you value about my approach as a leader and Delivery manager?
3. What more could I do to support you in your role?
4. Finally please tell me the thing you think I don’t want to hear?
On previous occasions I would dip into the collated feedback google sheet, taking a scattergun approach and feeling emotional about every single word written which would then play in my mind and affect me on multiple levels. This time the guidance was clear from the outset -
“Don’t peek or dive in, you set a deadline for a reason and give this important data the time and respect it deserves”
I did and set aside 30–45 minute chunks of time (after the deadline) to review and carefully read all comments. This reduced anxiety in the early stages, kept my focus clear and reduced distraction as I wasn’t hung up on trigger words or comments. I created a clear time and space to work with the feedback.
I knew I’d be working with my coach on this as a separate session so I didn’t dive too too deep into the information, and more familiarised myself with it to gain context and also a measure of how I felt.
The guided session
I was more nervous than I thought I’d be. Opening up to feedback is an art and skill, sharing the process felt a little unnerving and vulnerable. Before looking at any of the feedback we discussed what I wanted out of the paired feedback review:
- I wanted to find a way/formula or recipe I could use for future feedback scenarios I found myself in
- Some new approaches to how I interpret and synthesise this precious information
There was also a key element of safety added before we got into it. An acknowledgement that this feedback is a perspective and an opinion (by its very nature) and I can choose NOT to accept parts, some or all of this feedback. This was a game changer for me: the definition that these are words on a page gave me a liberating feeling and power to interpret this information to best serve me — the whole purpose for asking for it in the first place.
We then dived into it first with a poignant question -
“What was the overall feel of the feedback you received?”
- Happy — It was positive and constructive
- Attention areas — There were key themes running through that required thought
- Surprise — some comments which got me looking across the questions rather than down them in a linear fashion shifting my perspective
My energy moved to discomfort and nervousness when we began going into depth on specific theme. My view of feedback and previous mental models and paradigms that I had created immediately kicked in and I defaulted to looking for the most negative areas as they must clearly be where the growth for me is… wrong again, I was carefully guided and then invited to reframe the request to:
“Imagine you are reading these comments and they are about someone else, a team member or family member, anyone but you?”
This immediately freed me up. The penny dropped and I got out of my own way and this brought me back into using my analytical skills and mind and removed the emotion, judgement, fears and monkey in my brain from going ballistic. I had focus.
My key themes from my Q1 feedback:
Assertiveness — Be more assertive in meetings, speak up more, share my opinions and don’t wait for others to speak first. This was hard to grapple with and after a long discussion I reached the realisation that my diplomacy and mediation style on top of the nature of the role as DM and working across conflict and other areas, I’d leaned back too far into the diplomat style that has served me so well up to this point.
Key takeaway — Lean into the fray more, acknowledge and share my leadership style as well as get my point across whilst maintaining integrity. Speak up and practise public speaking and sharing more.
Optimism — this landed on both sides of the spectrum from positive to negative which was super interesting for me to delve into. Coming across as inauthentic but also showing alignment to my values and walking the talk both came up on this. I chose to move this in the most pragmatic way I could think with my coach and work through this. I went a layer down to my core values and also saw an area of development around sharing my values but also look at how my actions, emotions and language can affect those around me in a different way.
Key takeaway — Share my values wider, be more curious and observant of how my communication skills are and messages landing and build inner confidence in my own view of things.
Capacity — I received feedback about being careful not to spread myself too thin, working across lots of areas, impacting my work life balance and health and wellbeing. This was a theme I found easiest to work in, I’ve spent a lot of time working on my balance and finding where my capacity and limitations are and also keeping a check on where my attention is focussed. I’ve been like many of us across multiple spaces, this has been through conscious choice. The growth I’ve gained and learning has been phenomenal and found my groove of what works for me.
Key takeaway — Share more about my capacity, what value add I get my health and wellbeing and how I maintain focus and productivity — To completely butcher / use a bad analogy/metaphor — “Like a swan I’m calm above the surface AND also calm below the surface” — contrary to popular sayings or “consistently in the eye of the storm”
Acknowledgement/value alignment — The final theme we explored was around the alignment between the intent, values and way in which I am operating and the congruence between the comments left. Highlighting a calm demeanour, listening skills, working with people, maturity in role and approachability. It took a few passes to accept this positive feedback and even when i did I still tried to find an area of fault or weakness in myself or to try and level up mastery. I stopped took a breath and with true aplomb invited to accept the feedback and that there is balance in everything. Positive feedback can show you areas to build sustainability and also how you can share these skills with others.
Key takeaway — “keep doing what you are doing.” When you’ve reached the top of your personal mountain don’t wish there was more; celebrate and acclimatise
Key questions and ways i’ll be looking at future feedback
- Schedule time to read and review (from a 3rd person perspective). Be disciplined and not peek before the deadline
- Know that I can choose not to accept feedback if its not serving me — they are words
- Remove/reduce emotion and judgement from the feedback — by taking a perspective of this is for someone else
- Get in the right headspace then look at the responses by question (vertically) but also by responder (horizontally) dependant on collation but for a google sheet — to draw out themes and enrich context
- Celebrate the areas that line up with my intent, values and what I’m striving for — stop trying to fix and level up all the things!
- Share my feedback and takeaways so people understand more about me and what areas I’m working on and towards
Wherever you are and whatever your feedback perspectives are; a hat tip to you for being courageous, working on yourself and being open to possibilities and feedback.