What’s your first reaction?
I can bet it’s along the lines of, “Oh no. Something must be wrong. I must have done something wrong.”
Feedback. Why is it when we approach the subject of feedback, whether it be from a leader’s or employee’s perspective, that it brings us so much stress and anxiety?
Well, the answer goes deeper than you think.
Neurologically, we as human beings have been hardwired to minimize danger and threat from the beginning. It’s what’s allowed us to survive as a species. Within the limbic system of our brain, the amygdala, the one in charge of regulating our emotions, is what kicks in when our body receives a possible threat. When exposed to possible threats, your body stops thinking and starts reacting. Your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. Your stress hormones start going wild. An amygdala hijack occurs, which can be described as an immediate and overwhelming emotional response that doesn’t exactly measure up with the cause of the reaction.
Starting to sound familiar? This amygdala hijack is what is kicking when you’ve been asked to meet with your boss to discuss your feedback because our immediate assumption is that something is wrong. We fear feedback because we feel as though we’ve done something wrong, and in turn, it makes us feel as though we’re not good enough.
A common mistake is taking feedback personally, and we will always do this if we stay in a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset revolves around needing control, needing to do everything right, and needing to feel like you know what you’re doing all the time.
What’s key here, is to shift to a learner’s mindset, and focusing on the fact that you’re not the expert - yet. You’re still learning. When we perceive our work in this way, feedback becomes a gift because it’s direct information on what we’re excelling on, and what we can improve on.
So, what if you’re a leader? Because it’s not just receiving feedback that is causing us stress. Having to give constructive feedback can also cause stress when you’re worried about how the person may react. As it stands, leaders are not giving enough feedback as it is. Only 14% of employees think that their performance appraisal provides relevant and meaningful feedback. 54% believe that their leader never, rarely or occasionally recognizes their accomplishments and only 29% of employees know whether their job performance is where it should be. (Mark Murphy, “Research: Fewer Than Half Of Employees Know If They're Doing A Good Job” Forbes Magazine, 2016)
Not giving feedback is hurting your business, and most likely, it’s costing you too. Employees don’t know if they’re doing a good job, if they should keep doing what they’re doing, or try something new.
Remember, this isn’t about you. It’s for the benefit of your employee.
Begin with giving positive feedback regularly. Don’t wait for your annual performance reviews or quarterly meetings. Seek out and catch your employees doing things well, and comment on it. Give immediate positive feedback that’s actionable; “Hey, yesterday in the presentation you did XX really well and this is the impact that I saw...”
By doing this, you’ll start to build trust with your employees, so that when you have something constructive to say, they know it’s about making them better employees, not about bringing them down.
Once you’re ready to have that sit-down conversation to share feedback with your employee, leave your emotions out of it. Recognize what you’re feeling going into the conversation and get yourself to a place of positivity, or at least, neutrality. How you deliver your feedback will come across harmful if you’re frustrated, angry, or annoyed.
Next, recognize that this is not a one-way monologue. It’s about you working together with your employee to find out how to support them in areas they may be lacking. What impacted their ability to deliver the quality you were expecting? There’s a good chance the employee was missing something that would have helped them succeed whether it be support, information, time…etc or something is going on for them that we’re not seeing.
Ask open-ended questions about how you can work together. As a leader, you have to change your mindset to be in supportive mode, instead of fixing mode. Employees can’t do a good job if they’re lacking the resources they need to succeed, and as a leader, it's your job to give them the tools and ability to thrive.
Help your employers grow, develop, and improve their skills so they can in turn benefit the business with their abilities. Feedback, when done correctly, is always a win-win situation that will positively impact everyone.
See? Not so scary after all.
Ready to become a better leader? Book a call with Christine here to learn more.