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Feedback by Email? Really?

By Richard Price Lead Practitioner (Humanities) at The Polesworth School

Having watched the recent Chris Moyes, training videos as part of the launch of the “Growing Great People” CPD initiative, I was left with a nagging doubt:

“Feedback via email? Really?”

Could the longstanding joke of emailing the person in the next room really have a role in the organisational coaching structure? I scrolled back through the video clip to confirm that this indeed had been a suggestion.

Feedback is a part of coaching, I felt that I had largely neglected and didn’t particularly understand. I ordered a copy of Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen (as recommended by Chris Moyes). As I read this book, my realisation of how closed my mindset has been to feedback astounded me. When Michelle Borders launched OCM, I thought it was the ideal opportunity to share my findings, in case anybody else has had a similar experience, as we embark on this new approach to our CPD. For the sake of remaining within the wordcount limit, I will affectionately refer to the book as TFF for the remainder of this article.

With reflection, I began to realise the extensive range of feedback we receive in our everyday lives and that subconsciously, I had developed my own “go to” method for processing this. Unfortunately, this method seemed to be based on basking in the glory of anything positive (appreciation) while skilfully dismissing anything constructive (evaluation) as coming from a source less credible than my own opinion. I was right on track to waste this long overdue opportunity to experiment within my day-to-day practice.

As I read further into TFF, I began to realise that if I am to enjoy and get the most out of Growing Great People, I need to rethink my approach to feedback and rethink how I might listen more actively to the people around me. I would need to make a considerable shift in the way in which I recognise and analyse feedback.

Firstly, I need to recognise whether the feedback I receive is appreciation, evaluation, or coaching. Through this recognition, I am more likely to use the comments for their intended outcome. In fact, Chris Moyes pointed out that in the role of the coach, it is important that we help our coachees here; by delivering these three facets of feedback at separate times. We mustn’t lose the authenticity of positive comments by using them to ‘dress up’ points for improvement.

As the coachee, having established whether it be appreciation or evaluation, I am to practise removing emotional blurring from the feedback. As part of this analysis, I am to make a transition in mindset from “What’s wrong with your feedback?” to “Tell me more”. Although I retain the right to reject feedback, I must ensure that this is not an emotional response. My “go to” response must be inquisitive, formulating questions to get to the crux of what the observer has seen and why they have phrased it in that particular way.

Through reading TFF, I was fascinated by how emotional blurring, distorts feedback, rendering it less useful (or maybe dismissed completely) in our everyday lives. Our tendency to glorify and tragedize feedback means that we often miss the opportunity to improve from it.

Our natural emotion towards feedback, creates blind spots in the image we have of ourselves:

“I am very good at this but awful at that.”

This view that we have of ourselves will no doubt contain some emotional blind spots from previous experiences. To make progress, I am going to have to practise removing my naturally, emotional response and taking away the key facts.

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