I’ve just had an experience with feedback that has left me feeling defeated and wondering how in the world I can even dare to trust people.
After delivering a typical presentation I walked away feeling pretty good about it based on the interaction with the group, the types of questions asked, and the discussion that followed with individuals in the group. I asked for feedback from the leader of the group and was told the general consensus was that the topic was a rich one to explore. I opened up a huge area of discussion for the group on a topic that was of great concern to them but I didn’t go far enough into all the rabbit holes of the topic and help them solve their issues.
Ok, so that’s valid feedback. I can take my lumps and critiques as well as the next person, and the truth only helps me to get better and better with each delivery. In reality, in an hour and a half how far can we really dive into a topic that requires deep thinking and analysis? The presentation was meant to be the tip of the iceberg, a start to a longer conversation about the topic and its value to an organization. But our society is one of instant fixes and instant gratification. A lifetime of dilemmas needs to be solved right now, right here, in an hour or less.
Now, a few weeks after that presentation, I get stunning feedback from someone in the group that the presentation didn’t go over well. What? That’s contrary to everything I’ve been told so far! I’m extremely grateful that someone had the courage to share their honest perspective with me! But now what am I supposed to believe? Did the group love the presentation or did they hate it? Was it useful or was it a complete waste of time? You know, what’s occurring to me as I sit here writing this blog post is darn it, I just want plain and simple English. Stop worrying about whether or not my feelings will get hurt, and stop coddling me! Lay the truth on me. Be HONEST! Anything less is too painful, misleading and just plain unfair.
Ever been in this situation? How do you deal with this type of conflicting feedback? Do you internalize it or blame the others for not getting your message or chalk it up to experience and let it go? And how do you know what to do about it? If you are (or ever have been) a leader in an organization, you’ve probably gone through this experience a time or two. People tend to tell you what they think you want to hear, not what will help you make a better decision. Especially if the situation involves something with a negative consequence or huge risk. Well, folks, I’m here to say that the consequence of telling people what they want to hear rather than the truth, at least for me, is a complete and utter destruction of trust.
And yes, each of us can have a different interpretation of “truth”. We all have our own set of experiences, background and culture that creates the filters we use to process information and make decisions. So let’s work our way back to feedback that offers complete and total honesty. Yes, we can couch it in kind and gentle words, but quit monkeying around with political correctness and avoiding hurting people’s feelings. There are ways to provide feedback that do not hurt people’s feelings, but rather just start the conversation about what works and what doesn’t. The best part is that we build trust this way, rather than destroy it!