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Giving and receiving good feedback is the life blood for the success of any individual performer and by extension any team and any company. Without good feedback you have no way of defining where an individual, or team, or project stands. I believe this is a principle that’s well understood but practiced to only one degree or another of effectiveness.

Feedback, no matter how well it is measured, no matter how comprehensive or precise, is useless if it can’t be delivered in a way that impacts the receiver. And the delivery of feedback, no matter how well done, is useless unless the receiver knows how to receive the feedback and then knows what to do with it.

Good feedback, which is utterly dependent on the giving and receiving of it, is a value only in theory. How do you optimize feedback to make it meaningful and productive?

Dialogue

Feedback is not a contest and more so not a combat. It’s not a ping pong match in which both giver and receiver are defending their presupposed ideas and conclusions. The giver must have a sincere intention to understand, appreciate, and value the receiver’s point of view even when the intention is to change that point of view. The receiver must do the same, i.e. understand, appreciate, and value the giver’s point of view even when the receiver feels the giver is incorrect or inaccurate but conducts the feedback exchange with the intention of achieving the deepest understanding. This requires emotional self-control, curiosity, patience, and a sincere belief in the advantage and the benefit of good feedback.

So the best feedback is a process of dialogue (not debate), a mutual exploration of the information and issues at hand with the intent of reaching a confident and beneficial agreement on what needs to be done to move both the giver and receiver along. Fundamental to the agreement is a felt connection between the giver and receiver so they are co-operating and co-creating the conclusion(s) they reach.

Just how is this done?

An axiom for dialogue is that both giver and receiver say what is true for them under the condition that neither party intends to make the other wrong. In other words stay out of the ping pong mode. To do so each must assume the other’s best intentions so that an antagonistic situation is avoided. This requires that whenever there is a misunderstanding either via confusion or lack of clarity, the dialogue must pause going forward until the gap is resolved. The party for whom the exchange has ceased being productive has the obligation to state explicitly that their connection has been broken and the exchange has veered off track for them. Their connection has to be brought back to a mutual understanding. This is not a case for accusation or suspicion of any kind but a sincere belief that misunderstanding is unavoidable in human communication and that both parties strive to resolve it.

Resolving the gap requires that the party who is off track explicitly state his or her understanding and the other party listen carefully. Often this step can clear up the issue as a simple misunderstanding. But if not assumptions of both parties must be themselves and one another to discover how and where in the process the misstep occurred. This misstep can be caused, for example, by:

—  a misinterpretation of language — people using similar words differently;

— by a different understanding of objectives — each party having a different and unspoken goal in mind;

— the difference in their intellectual understanding — do they have the same view of the parameters or scope of the task or project;

— what level of emotional investment do they have — the degree of urgency they each have;

— how well do each understand the meta factors —  what is the vision at the company/project/team/or task level.

I don’t intend that the above example to be exhaustive but suggestive. When a SNAFU rises the problem(s) rarely exist at the obvious, i.e. superficial level. If that were the case the misunderstandings would be easily corrected.

The point is [and the point for this post is] that when they do dialogue not debate is the most effective and productive way through the gap.

Dialogue will create a shared pool of meaning that energizes a mutuality between giver and receiver so they establish a co-operative and co-llaborative mind they both can bring to bear in any of their further conversation, whether they be feedback conversations or not.

I will be posting abut feedback in the future because good feedback, given and received, is essential to your success and the advancement of your career.

(Photo Credit: Alan Levine/Flickr)

Jim Sniechowski has published his first novel, Worship of Hollow Gods, at Amazon.com. In Worship of Hollow Gods Jim bears witness to the world of a sensitive, nine-year-old boy, subjected to the underbelly of his Polish Catholic family in working class Detroit. The year is 1950. The family gathers for a Friday night family poker/pinochle party. The outcome reveals a world no one ever talked about then and are forbidden to talk about now—the unspoken, the impermissible, the reality beneath every family’s practiced facade—and what lies beneath when the front has been ripped away. Worship of Hollow Gods is available now in Kindle and paperback for at http://tinyurl.com/hollowgods

James Sniechowski, PhD and his wife Judith Sherven, PhD http://JudithandJim.com have developed a penetrating perspective on people’s resistance to success, which they call The Fear of Being Fabulous. Recognizing the power of unconscious programming to always outweigh conscious desires, they assert that no one is ever failing. They are always succeeding. The question is, at what?

Currently working as consultants on retainer to LinkedIn providing executive coaching, leadership training and consulting as well as working with private clients around the world, they continually prove that when unconscious beliefs are brought to the surface, the barriers to greater success and leadership presence begin to fade away. They call it Overcoming the Fear of Being Fabulous. http://OvercomingtheFearofBeingFabulous.co