January 6, 2017
Last week was, of course, Christmas. My kids, even now that they are older, I suppose because Annie and I have kept the traditions alive, still regard Christmas morning with a sense of wonder and glee. There are still full stockings, a plate left with only a few cookie crumbs and bits of carrot, packages in two distinct styles of wrapping paper – one for packages from Annie and I and one from the fat man. Though our children don’t believe anyone actually comes down the chimney, they very much believe in the wonder of the day, and in the value of that very first gift and in each of those that they receive each year.
Invariably though, something isn’t quite right. The size is off a notch. Santa got a navy one instead of black. “It’s cute, but I don’t think it’s me.” Immediately after comes the discussion of the dissolution of said items; to return, exchange, give to someone else possibly, or maybe just keep it after all.
This year, the annual ritual made me think of feedback. See, when we think about feedback in similar terms, life gets better. Because feedback, after all, is a gift.
And that’s the point for the week.
For the recipient, to see feedback as a gift it must first be offered as one. Feedback should never be offered in a negative package. Feedback should be a present. It should enrich the recipient, not devalue them. It should build them up, not tear them down. It should add to their self-esteem, not destroy their dignity. Too often though, feedback given by traditional, authoritarian, command and control types is given harshly; it does tear down, devalue, and destroy. But when feedback is given positively, from the heart, the likelihood of acceptance goes up factorially, bonds between leader and follower form, and organizations move forward driven by the fuel of self-improvement.
Those receiving feedback given as a gift may, as with any other present, do with it as he or she wishes. Use it, put it on a shelf, pass it on, or even ask for an exchange (of ideas).
The manner in which feedback is both given and received though, like anything else in life, is a choice. But when the choice is made to give and receive feedback as a gift, barriers to trust are removed, dialogue blossoms, and organizations are transformed as individuals identify and address that which stands between them and individual greatness.
So, view feedback as a gift.
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