The Truth about Giving Feedback

Yamini Rangan, CEO of Hubspot once said, “great leaders are great learners”.

Being able to learn consistently from the feedback given to you is undeniably difficult. In fact, many of us have a feedback trigger- a fixed mindset that occurs when we receive feedback. Often, people with such a feedback trigger will tend to be defensive and even feel frustrated, instead of accepting the feedback positively and learning from it. 

While it is true that people with a fixed mindset trigger should learn how to adopt a growth mindset and learn from feedback, it cannot be ignored that such triggers could be caused by the culture of the workplace as well.

Leaders play an integral role in fostering the workplace culture. A culture of hostility and negativity would usually result in a lack of constructive feedback and brutal criticism. 

This results in a lack of psychological safety in the workplace, where employees are often criticized instead of being encouraged.

However, with the right mindset, leaders are able to foster a culture of continuous improvement in a nurturing environment filled with positivity. In such an environment, feedback should be given consistently in a constructive way (it should not come off as a surprise). In fact, giving feedback should be viewed as a fundamental portion of the company’s growth and it should be embedded within the system. Of course, it mustn't be forgotten that giving feedback should be paired with compassion and honesty. 


Here are two crucial aspects of giving feedback: 

#1: Compassion 

Feedback MUST be given with compassion! Overly harsh feedback should be avoided as doing so might lead to poor relationships and the receiver to feel ‘personally attacked’. Thus, instead of using the feedback given to them as a learning point, they may feel demoralized and attacked. Before giving feedback, we must ensure that the feedback given is compassionate and given with the purpose of facilitating growth.

#2: Honesty 

While harsh feedback should be avoided, this does not mean that honesty should be neglected. Indeed, the truth hurts and being honest may come off as being blunt and harsh. Regardless of such a fact, feedback must always be given truthfully. Understandably, being a leader is difficult as we often have to juggle between maintaining good relationships with others and ensuring competency. Have you ever shied away from revealing the cold hard truth to someone just because you want to maintain a good relationship with them? Nevertheless, feedback must be given with utmost candor in order for it to effectively facilitate growth. 

Lastly, the glue that sticks all of these together would be TRUST. In order for honest feedback to be given without coming off negatively would depend on the trust within the workplace. Leaders must first establish the culture of giving constructive feedback and then provide the necessary support for their people to work well together. Leaders must also emphasize on the importance of giving feedback and how it should be viewed as a tool to facilitate growth instead of criticism in the workplace. 

Now, let’s dive into the individual aspect of receiving feedback. 

Ever felt personally attacked or demoralized when receiving feedback? When receiving feedback, do you always try to defend and explain yourself rather than listening? These are 2 common reactions that many people have when it comes to receiving feedback. Even though the feedback given is not harsh, people might still react this way due to their fixed mindset triggers. For today’s topic about feedback, we are targeting the feedback trigger specifically. 

People who have a feedback trigger tend to adopt a fixed mindset when receiving feedback. Instead of learning from it, their fixed mindset causes them to be defensive, frustrated and even angry- causing them to do anything but learn. 

Firstly, it is crucial to be aware of our fixed mindset triggers- which varies across different people. Once we are aware, we can start to tackle it by learning how to accept feedback and using it to grow. This is different from just being ‘open-minded’- as one can still receive feedback graciously without learning from it. 

We must understand that the feedback given is based on the perspective of others, which we often fail to see ourselves. It must be understood that other people are oftentimes more capable of assessing our performance rather than ourselves, thereby helping us to tackle our blindspots. Listening to the perspectives of others can allow us to grow substantially in various ways previously unknown to us and appear more capable in the eyes of others, not just ourselves. 

Another thing to note is that feedback given is actually beneficial for us and it should be taken as a ‘gift’. Here’s why: 

  1. People are actually spending THEIR TIME to improve YOU.
  2. If you receive it positively, feedback benefits YOU. 
  3. YOU get to decide how and whether you want to use it for YOUR own benefit. 

Therefore, instead of just being ‘open-minded’, we must take each feedback given to us with the purpose of improvement and practice it CONSISTENTLY to lock it in. 

In conclusion, the basis of constructive feedback is built on both sides: the givers and the receivers. With the right mindset and environment, feedback allows organizations to soar above the rest in a culture of continuous growth. 

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