The Value of Feedback According to a Seven-Year-Old

At dinner, my husband and I had a conversation with our seven year old about the value of feedback. (Lest you think our dinner conversations are always this high level, I should mention that night we also talked about who won wallball and Harry Potter). Our family's shared values include the importance of being the best versions of ourselves, so we believe feedback is one way of working to be better today than yesterday. In delivering feedback to our son, my husband and I explained when people we trust give us feedback, it is because they care so much about us that they want us to understand how we affect others around us. We explained the difference between giving feedback when you care about helping someone be his or her best self and feedback that only intends to tear someone down. After reflecting on the differences, our son pronounced the latter should be called "meanback." Seems like an accurate term to describe feedback that disguises as wanting to help someone, but isn't respectful or furthers a personal agenda. Or equally as difficult to process, important feedback wrapped up in negative body language or incongruent tone.

As leaders, it is our responsibility and opportunity to give feedback to help our employees grow. This means we should consistently acknowledge when things go well and be comfortable addressing when things go awry. We also have to consider what foundation we built for someone to be receptive to our feedback. Have we recognized the employee's strengths and praised their efforts? Have we developed trust so they know we have their best interest at heart? Then we have to focus on sharing comments in clear, specific examples and our feedback should be tied to outcomes.

Do you embrace the responsibility of giving feedback? How can you develop your feedback skills? 

Giving meaningful feedback requires practice and receiving feedback does too. It's not "meanback" just because you disagree with it. Every piece of feedback reveals something about the person delivering it, even if it is just that person's preferences. Learn to truly listen to the feedback and decide if it provides information, leads to actionable improvements or both. Better yet, solicit feedback (even if it feels scary!) - you will build trust by asking and you might even learn something that you were not aware of and will make you a better leader.

Feedback isn't child's play, but the value isn't lost on a child. Mastering the art of feedback will help foster growth of our employees, our organizations and ourselves.