FORWARD WITH FEEDBACK
Seeking feedback and being given an honest review of your work is valuable material. During many of my coaching sessions with leaders in prominent positions, one difficulty that commonly runs through for these leaders is their inability to source honest feedback from their subordinates. The same is the problem vice-versa. Unfortunately, most feedback highlights the negative. When I was working in corporate business, I found myself in many appraisal meetings. The thoughts from supervisors usually focused on the negatives and prospects for improvement. Sometimes, we would spend hours deliberating weak points even when the overall performance and assessment was impressive.
In the African setting, for instance, it is no surprise to see parents constantly grumble about their children’s poor grades. From my experience so far, I have rarely come across a parent who willingly and whole-heartedly praised their child for their good works. One of my employees recounted her story as a child to be during her interview with me. She was a very bright child as a girl. Sometime during her days in primary school, she began to struggle with Mathematics. She would score all As in other subjects but mostly a C in Math. We both laughed out loud when she dramatically recounted how her father threatened to withdraw her from a private school and enroll her in public school. He lost sight of the fact that his daughter although challenged in Math, had a very creative, sharp mind.
Several studies have shown that people give more attention to negative information over positive news. Stuart Soroka, Collegiate Professor of Communication Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan suggests that humans may be neurologically or physiologically predisposed towards focusing on negative information because the potential costs of negative information far outweigh the potential benefits of positive information. For example, when asked to recall important emotional events, people remember four negative memories for every positive one.
For many businesses, it makes a lot of sense to want to be prepared for the worst. In this day of internet freedom and social media sharing, negative feedback travels very far. In many cases, companies have lost millions for this reason. It has been proven that people are driven by fear. For this reason, we spend a lot of time deliberating what real customers have said about a service or product before we buy-in. What is disturbing is that we get stuck in the pool of negativity when we have so much more to offer.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to prepare for the worst or being double sure before we align ourselves with a project or patronize a service. I firmly believe every organization looking to expand and run a sustainably long business must make sure everyone performs at an expected level of competence. One of the ways this can be done is offering corrective feedback. The Harvard Business Review points out one major disadvantage if this measure is not effectively carried out. “Unfortunately, feedback that ferrets out flaws can lead otherwise talented managers to overinvest in shoring up or papering over their perceived weaknesses, or forcing themselves onto an ill-fitting template. Ironically, such a focus on problem areas prevents companies from reaping the best performance from its people.”
Is there a way to still develop people who work for us by reviewing our method of feedback? Yes, there is! The Reflected Best Self Exercise tool revealed that people benefit significantly from positive feedback about their strengths and contributions. In the last year, I have done my best possible to live a healthy, active life. I embark on regular runs mostly over the weekend. When I began my fitness journey, I found myself constantly looking at people I admired. Every time I realized that I was not running as hard and as far as they were, I would get very frustrated with myself. I used the same energy in criticizing the way my body looked. I would stand in front of the mirror focusing on my problem areas. I ignored that with each passing week, I was doing a few more steps than I had the previous week. I did not recognize that gradually, I could fit into clothes that previously were too small to fit in. I took into consideration negative feedback and got stuck there! It took me a while to focus on the progress I was making. And when I began to do this, I did not only feel good about myself. I generated a sustainable source of energy to keep going! “Positive feedback fosters healthy emotions, builds personal urgency and resourcefulness, and helps to strengthen the quality of our relationships with colleagues, friends and family members.” – Harvard Business Review
We may not be able to control what others say to us, but we certainly can be mindful of what we say to ourselves. Instead of pondering over our negatives, we should be intentional about highlighting our strengths. I ask you dear reader, “What are you good at doing?” What can you boldly call your strength? It might come as a surprise to you that you need time to think clearly on what the answer is. Why? Because probably, for the most part of your life, you have only been bothered about what you are not good at, what is wrong with you, what you constantly fail at, etc. We have all been in that position and the great thing is, you can renew your mind about how you see yourself and what you think about yourself. I am not asking that you ignore your fears and flaws. I am asking that you evolve your thinking to be more positive in your criticisms about yourself so you can move forward with feedback.
Whether you are a leader, a manager, an entrepreneur or a single individual who is still trying to find their feet in the world of business, remember that your strengths will greatly influence your success. So how do you embark on this journey of turning your strengths into success?
- SEEK CLARITY
In High-Performance coaching, clarity is defined as being apparent on who you desire to be, how you plan to interact with other people, what you want, and what will give you the most meaning. Do this at the start of any endeavour and throughout the process. Monitor yourself regularly. This process also requires a sharp sense of self-awareness, a state of cognizance of your personality, your thoughts, your beliefs and your emotions, including your strengths and your weaknesses. Self-awareness is a process that requires you to be in constant communication with yourself and to remain in the consciousness of your environment especially about the feedback you receive from people you interact with. Being self-aware is more of a toolset than simply a notion. Every leader needs to understand himself thoroughly to be successful at his duty of leading others. When you have a good understanding of who you are, you will not easily be swayed by the negative feedback and external notions and pressures you encounter in your work, business and life.
- RECOGNIZE YOUR STRENGTHS
I haven’t always been a good speaker. It was a trait I recognized through seeking clarity and being intentional. “Making a practice of analyzing your best self by noticing positive feedback, asking questions, and studying your successes, you will develop a more holistic and cohesive understanding of the contents of your best self and the contextual factors that allow you to bring this best self into your work.”
- SHARPEN YOUR STRENGTHS
After recognition, it is time to practise, practise, practise! Be mindful of the fact that not everyone around you will say nice things about you to make you feel good about yourself. You must consistently reaffirm what you know is true about yourself. We have all been in meetings where we were criticized by a colleague or supervisor. As kids growing up, we had friends pick on our flaws which instilled insecurities and fears in us. But you are in charge of your mind and thinking. Sow good thoughts and you will reap good outcomes! In your workplace, align yourself with people who value your contribution and value. Sharpening your strengths may require that you go beyond yourself and current capabilities. Your aim is to be a master of what you are good at and to consistently succeed at being successful. Do not be scared to go beyond your boundaries to learn new things. The soft and hard skills you gain will be of value in your place of work.
- DO SAME FOR OTHERS
There is no better way to master positivity than by consistently practising it. If you are truly living a life of positivity, it will reflect in your work relationships, romantic relationships and friendships. Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. People who recognize and affirm others’ contributions can bring out the best in themselves and others more consistently.
We can move forward with the right kind of feedback. Do not be stuck focusing on your weaknesses. While you focus on your strengths, seek growth by working on your weaknesses to transform yourself, your work-life relationships and romantic relationships.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordi across all social media platforms.