Career Development - Receiving the Gift of Feedback
The annual performance review can be an emotionally charged event. It usually occurs once a year and while the review does recognize accomplishments it also addresses performance gaps which are then translated into opportunities for improvement and the infamous growth plan. Sometimes the review is vague in its presentation and feels unfair in its judgment. It can seem that whatever you do you lose. Players who are winners in the career game are able to transition from a losing to a learning approach and see feedback as a gift. They can do this because they know three things: 1) feedback is an opportunity, 2) it is a time to be curious, and 3) it will be their decision on how to use the information.

Winning players recognize that the person providing the review is trying to tell them how to improve their performance. No matter how well or poorly the feedback is provided and even if the tone seems punitive, at the core of the feedback is a message on how to improve. For the winning player, this is an opportunity to learn how to be more successful.

Winning players realize that feedback usually comes packaged as a story. Stories arise when information is processed. The story begins with facts and data. These are the actions that are observed and the words that are heard. To these raw ingredients are added assumptions, attributions, and judgments and these are used to reach a conclusion. The conclusion combines all the facts and data flavored with the assumptions, attributions, and judgments to yield the story which is a summary of real events filtered through personal experience and opinion. For example, we observe an employee arriving at 8:15 for a work day that normally starts at 8:00. We assume he is late without reason and our judgment tells us this is unacceptable. We attribute the lateness to laziness and conclude that the employee is not seriously committed to the job and is only doing what he needs to do to get by. A winning player knows the structure of a story and is prepared when receiving feedback to become curious and learn what actions were taken that were not acceptable and what actions could be taken that would be acceptable.

Winning players know that once they understand the facts and data on which the feedback is based it is up to them to decide how they will use the information and even if they will use it at all. Not all feedback is accurate and not all feedback is useful. A winning player decides what will best support success and adapts accordingly, changing behavior if that is required, managing perceptions if that is the issue, or choosing not to make use of feedback when it is not helpful.

Whenever feedback is given there is an opportunity to learn something useful. A successful career player takes the opportunity to receive feedback whenever it appears, become curious and makes the effort to understand the specific issues and options for doing things differently, and then makes use of the feedback in the way that works for them.

Maret Maxwell PhD
Next Step
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