Sunday, July 21, 2013

Giving and Accepting Advice and Feedback

Reaction to: The Trap of False Hypocrisy

When you are getting feedback or advice the most important factor is if you can use it effectively.

When you giving feedback or advice the most important factor is doing so in a way that is most likely to result in it being used effectively.

When you get feedback or advice that isn't particularly well delivered (lets say much delivered in way that is much worse than the example - even cruelly given). Your reaction (if what you care about is getting better) should be based on what would help you be better, not the form the advice takes. If what you care about is doing what is suggested in a good manner (which may even be lousy advice) then your reaction should be baed on how they give feedback, or advice to you.

People are affected by how advice is given and in fact how much they like the person giving advice and whether they think the advice is good or not. Those are factors to consider in giving advice. In my opinion those are factors to overcome in accepting advice. If I miss good advice because the person delivers it inelegantly or I don't like them or whatever it is I who lose.

If the core issue the person raises with feedback is something you should address, do so. Don't have how you respond determined by how successfully they gave feedback. In the post one of the issues I think Benjamin was trying to address was providing better feedback and in encouraging logical thinking. Both of which are worthy and make sense doing. I would say that is a 2nd issue. Issue 1 is if the feedback has merit. Issue 2 is if the feedback provided could be improved and if the logic behind the explanation of the feedback is good.

As I said in a previous post, I believe you should evaluate advice on merit, not whether the advisor follows the advice.

Related: The difference between respect and disrespect is not avoiding avoiding criticism - Respect for People, Understanding Psychology - I would much rather hear that someone felt a proposal won’t work than have them be quiet because they don’t want to be seen as negative

=== more thoughts, based on James' comments on my comments above ===

James, I agree with your thoughts. One of the things I continually struggle with is completely presenting my thought in writing - normally I think of 4 caveats I should make then what I say is so long I get tons of complaints it is too long. In general I have tried to reduce that. But I often leave things with too much imprecision (that is too much that is/can be wrong). Trying to be clear, complete and conscience is something I still need lots of work on. Your points about really most isn't right... are exactly my thoughts.

I think not wanting to take the "time to process hostile feedback" is something everyone does though often with less self awareness. And it extends beyond "hostile" to any type that is hard to process (different people have different points they struggle with most). If it is too much bother to figure out why this is useful (logically, emotionally...) we don't want to deal with it.

We will seek out people that we work well with. We will pay more attention to feedback from those who have given us feedback in the past that we used to make a change and saw a good result (either because they are perceptive in seeing the problem, skilled at presenting the case to us, skilled at showing us a way forward, skilled at providing feedback we can actually use (you can give me all the feedback in the world about how to be a better pro basketball player I am not going to be able to use it effectively).

And much more we will block, ignore and deflect feedback we don't want - whether it is hostile, confusing, impossible for us to figure out how to act on, unconvincing... That is why, if you care about having your feedback listened to you often need to design it for the person you are talking to - do they want it all dressed up with compliments about their overall wonderfulness, do they want you to provide some possible options for doing things differently, do they want you to explain the impact of the issue...

I think most people are frustrated with feedback that "takes too much energy and time to process." I think this is why there is so much talk about giving effective feedback. I see too little talk on how to take even effectively given feedback and use it to improve, which is a big part of taking too much energy to implement.

My opinion is that many people have trouble processing the feedback they get, but even more so they have trouble figuring out what to do with it even if they could understand what the issue was (I have a feeling that isn't nearly as big a problem for you but I am just making guess). Even if they can really see what could be improved, turning that into actual improved performance is often not easy.

There are lots of details to consider in order to provide effective feedback. If your goal is to get the feedback used (such as when you are coaching an employee) I think it is often wise to spend the most time on helping people with process of improvement. If people get feedback they can easily use to improve and they can see the results they often want more. The same ideas as your "feedback into information I can use."

And when I say "they can see the results" that again is an indication that it might be an effort to improve feedback in an organization will be enhanced by increasing people's ability to see results (which to me is about understanding data, understanding processes, customer focus, systems thinking...).

Well I went on far to long and it is still not very clear I don't think but, that is the best effort I could make today...

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