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Golden rules to giving feedback

feedbackI have no idea who they were and I couldn’t see them but boy could I hear them, along with my fellow passengers on the hotel’s small shuttle bus to San Francisco airport.

Their conversation went like this:

Ben: “My feedback for you is that you are blunt, rude and upset people.”

I’ll admit I was a little surprised/shocked at Ben’s feedback, but intrigued to hear the response.

Bill: “Whoa! That’s a bit harsh, but tell me more about what you mean.”

Ben: “Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you but…”

…interrupting, Bill said: “My feedback is that you should stand your ground when giving feedback and not apologise for it.”

This Feedback Ping Pong match went on for ten minutes and was great entertainment for passengers and driver, we all sat in silence listening. As we approached the airport there was a pause. Until:

Bill: “My feedback to you is that much of your feedback is coming from your ego rather than given for the benefit of the other person.”

At this point I couldn’t resist giving Bill the thumbs up over my shoulder.

Receiving productive feedback is really valuable whether coaching or selling. And in selling, one of the things customers’ value most from good salespeople is feedback that gives them a new perspective (see The Challenger Sale).

But there are some golden rules to feedback:

1. Ask permission before giving it. Simply: “would you like some feedback?”
2. Give it in an appropriate environment
3. Make it specific not personal. For example: change from the personal “you are blunt, rude and upset people” to the specific “when you responded to Angela by saying “that’s the wrong action to take” did you notice her reaction and that she didn’t say another word in the meeting?”

PS. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
PPS. Also works on teenagers – a client reliably informs me.

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