Tuesday, 29 December 2009

We all Suck at Feedbacks - Part 1 / 4 How to take it?


A few weeks ago it was my time to throw back some feedback to the Team, some of the Team members and of course myself. We as a Team always believed in constructive feedback. A feedback that will help Team members improve. Ideally feedback is meant to be given to improve, but the intention is usually not mutually accepted. Not that the they are agreed upon or disagreed, but feedbacks dont go in the order and form they are supposed to go due to communication or understanding.

I decided to put up this series that comes exactly in line of time when I am supposed to do a Annual review for the Team. Though as a Team we have been sharing feedback very often, A annual feedback is the time that determines a glossary of the last few shares of feedback, summarized and polished and hopefully effectively communicated.

I remember the "Appraisal Meetings" I have undergone and here I write how a typical feedback/appraisal session goes. The employee goes in a room with a document filled where he rates himself between 1-5 for items like Communication skills, Effectiveness, Technical strengths, deliveries, quality etc. he chooses to put 5 on every item his eye can see and his Manager sitting in is sitting there with an intention to cut down that 5 to 2 or 3 or maximum 4 even if he is not, he is in mind of the employee. After the meeting is over the employee goes out sits beside his colleague or go out for a Coffee and utter this "He is an A**Hole, A donkey can be a better Manager than him" blah blah blah... both of them agree and the guy who just went for a coffee is prepared to enter the same room...Conclusion of the meeting is that the employee thinks he is not getting a promotion or a hike, because the Manager blamed him for everything he did in the past. He is going to update his resume as soon as he goes out.

Well the cause of the above scene maybe anything... but one thing is for sure. The later part of the scenario is more driven because the feedback is not accepted with the same intention as it is given. Now let’s pick the most mature person in the Team, with the best attitude, with the best track record and give him a feedback constructive or non constructive. There is a lot of defence on everything said. Do we know why? Do employees think that a feedback session is a War? Do employees and Managers not share the correct wave length? Well the answers differ... but of all these elements there is definitely 1 major issue which causes a lot of questions we raised above... WE DONT KNOW HOW TO TAKE or RECEIVE FEEDBACK... Yes we don’t know... So let’s take a few tips on how to take feedback:

If you want to receive it first “Be Prepared” for it

Many of us don’t self evaluate before they get into feedback sessions. This causes a lot of trouble when you are in a feedback meeting. It’s very important that you as a feedback receiver are aware of all the points that relates to your feedback. I went to a feedback session where a Developer working on 2 of the last 3 projects in the last few weeks was able to start the project well, but never took care to finish it. When we reached a point to discuss the projects, the developer went defensive and did not want to discuss the projects at all forgetting the fact that the projects or points coming out of the feedback session were a part of the feedback. Eventually this was caused as the developer was not prepared to take the project feedback. Ideally a few days before the feedback session it is important that we go and review ourselves with a yard stick that is stricter than the one of the Manager.

God gave you ears to listen, both Good and Bad things

We are not used to listen. When somebody speaks we want to cut him off. If he speaks bad about us then we don’t want the person to even start. We so much want to listen only Good things about ourselves that when it comes to some unpleasant set of items, we don’t want to listen it. We say that Managers biggest weapon are his listening skills, but I say that anyone’s biggest weapon can be his listening skills. If you can listen to criticism you can survive. Listening quietly and noting the feedback items on a paper will help you review things for yourself after the feedback is given.

Boss is always (R)ight

He may not be always right. But that doesn’t mean that after the feedback we have to prove how wrong he is. Usually after any feedback session you would see the employee who received the feedback discuss things with colleagues. Honestly these sessions are usually driven towards how the employee is right and how the Manager is not. This can cause some level of discomfort both for you and the Manager.

I want to!!!!

The objective of feedbacks is to let the employee know what he is good at and what he needs to work on. Listen on what improvements are coming out of the discussions and be ready to accommodate the improvements. When the Indian cricket captain Dhoni always had a motive on the pitch that would drive him to go and hit and score as fast as he could, there were 2 reasons to it.. 1 patience and another the number at which he was playing... even being a captain he was once asked by a Sr. Member of the Team to play up the order and keep calm... he started by accepting this in an interview and changed to keep cool head on the wicket... when he was able to get this working he changed his order and started coming up the order. Result? He scored more runs and played more longer innings.

In your feedback sessions show an attitude that you want to work on things.

I need help!!!

A lot of people cannot accept the feedback, or cannot accept the improvements coming out of feedback sessions. It may be due to various reasons...yet these people are not able to ask for what help they need to work on the improvements or to perform better.

In my second job we had a lady in our Team who played a Team lead, who would start to work at 10 and finish at 4. She was not available for tele-calls post work hours, nor she would be able to work on something post work hours even if it was urgent. Our Manager who was a workalcoholic somehow could not like the fact that she was not able to support in emergencies. He shared the feedback a couple of times and asked the lady to be available to the Team in emergencies. The lady resigned in a few days. Only later we came to know that the lady was suffering from a slip-disk and had physiotherapist appointment at 4:30 every day.

Ask for help if the feedback demands something from you and you think you can’t do it without certain help.

Get or Die is not the case

A lot of guys get defensive in feedback sessions that because they could not get something or because someone was not working well they could not do what they were meant to do. Some also go to a stage saying they need X, Y and Z and only then they can consider achieving the feedback. Remember feedback is given to not receive back excuses or demands.. they are given to help you do better... so never let demands or complains make the feedback sessions... have a separate forum for that.

Finally feedback is not personal; it is a part of you that needs professional acceleration... so accept it with some spirit and work on it