Liane Davey just posted a terrific article about giving feedback to professional colleagues. Don’t do it, she says, until you’re ready.
For example, if you’re giving feedback so as to punish or humiliate someone, even just a little, you’re not ready. You’re ready only when you can honestly say that your motive is to make the other person more successful.
Liane gives other tips for knowing when you’re ready to give feedback. (Read her article — it’s well worth your time.) Beyond those tips, I think there’s one more: you’re not ready to give feedback until your colleague is ready to receive it.
People are usually receptive when — calmly and in private — you offer to give them feedback or advice. But not always. Sometimes, either verbally or nonverbally, they’ll say Not now. This is often true when the colleague is a peer; it can be especially true when the colleague is your boss.
No matter how helpful your feedback would be, and no matter how pure your motivation, don’t bother giving feedback if the other person isn’t ready to receive it.
Pondering this, I confronted a couple of questions:
- How ready am I to receive feedback?
- Do I ever tell my colleagues, verbally or nonverbally, that I’m not ready?
I like to keep an even keel at work, not appearing stressed even when the work is hard and the deadlines are closing in. I like to be seen as a steady, dependable teammate.
But how does that look to others? When my head is down and I’m focused on my work in the face of that looming deadline, is there a big “do not disturb” sign on my forehead?
When I try to look cool and unflappable, do I actually look unapproachable? Do I send the silent message that I don’t need help from anyone?
Do I ask for help when I should? Do I take advantage of opportunities to ask for feedback? (I’m pretty sure I fall short on both counts.)
While I plan to take to heart Liane’s advice about giving feedback, I’m also going to focus on making sure that I’m ready to receive feedback — and making sure that I’m communicating my readiness to those around me.
In what ways do you let colleagues — managers, subordinates, and peers — know that you’re ready to receive feedback?