November 3, 2021

How to Give and Receive Feedback

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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It’s performance review season and so I am breaking down my step-by-step guidance for how to give and receive feedback.

Whether you have a review coming up, one you’re giving, or it’s just a 1-1 or meeting you have coming up where feedback is part of the agenda, this episode is for you.

I’m not only walking you through how to give feedback in a way that is well-received and productive, how to receive it in a way that is going to help you excel in your career, but  I also have a stance on feedback that is different from the business-norm.

There is some common advice out there that I think you need to ignore.

Listen to today’s episode to find out what it is.

What You’ll Learn

How to prepare and deliver feedback effectively

How to receive feedback without feeling threatened

How to make changes for your career without sacrificing your integrity

How to take the discomfort out of performance conversations and make them win-win

Featured in This Episode

Learn more about coaching with Melissa at

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Welcome to Navigating your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the podcast on this episode. Given that we are already in November, I thought that we should definitely talk about feedback. As you go into your performance review cycles, you’re going to be asked to give feedback. You may be delivering feedback to your team, and you’re likely going to be receiving some feedback, too, whether you like it or not. So feedback is really important because in your career they say that feedback is a gift.

And then there’s the kind of tongue in cheek spin on it that it’s a gift you don’t have to keep. But in reality, to survive in a corporate culture, to advance and to just play well with others, you have to be able to accept feedback even if you don’t agree. There are also ways to deliver feedback in a way that is going to be better received by your audience. So let’s just set you up for success right now and dig into this a bit more. First, let’s talk about receiving feedback, and then I’ll get into how to give it.

So a lot of business advice out there will tell you that to grow your career, you should seek feedback and mold yourself into whatever others want from you, that their feedback is essentially something that you just need to listen to and adapt to. Now. It isn’t as blatant as that, but it’s pretty much saying that in order to advance or to get ahead at work, that you really need to do what other people say. If they’re seeing you in a certain way, then you need to change to adjust to other people’s expectations.

And I disagree a bit with that.

I do think that there is an element of truth to listening to others, and I’m going to dig into that, and we’re going to explore that. But overall, my philosophy is that every person has their own perspective and their own lens and view on the world. And so it’s not as simple as thinking that if someone tells you that you need to behave a certain way, have a certain hair color. Yes, I’ve heard that at work, show up to meetings a certain way, have a certain presence, those types of things that is just that one person’s view based on their experience.

And yes, depending on their role, you may need to give that some weight, but it’s not as black and white as it’s made to be.

Sometimes because the problem with molding yourself to others expectations or just taking feedback and adjusting is that all of us, as individuals are living in our own world, we all have our own beliefs and perspectives of what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and the behaviors needed to say earn a promotion or advance in a company or just be a good employee. So if the culture is toxic and I have an episode on that from a few weeks back, how to tell if you’re in a toxic work culture or if the behaviors aren’t aligned with your values in an organization, or if the leaders don’t represent who you want to be or the type of style that you want to have, then their feedback is only going to take you farther away from yourself.

Now, with that said, there are cultural norms and expectations for companies, and there is a bit of political savvy and professional skill that you should have. So I’m not saying throw the feedback out the window completely. I know so far you might be listening to this and be like, Well, what are you saying? Because you’re talking about both, right? But what I’m saying is before taking someone else’s feedback as fact as true, I want you to dissect it a little bit, apply your own critical thinking skills to it and decide what you want to take on and explore and what you want to appreciate and leave on the table.

This will help you stay true to yourself and still play the game to get where you want to be. So let’s dig into this more. How does this work? Exactly? When someone offers you feedback?

The first thing I want you to do is to pause, pause for one moment and take a breath. Then thank the person for the feedback. Whether the feedback is valid or if you want to change anything, the person still has spent time to share their perspective of what they think you need to work on to do. Well, so thank them. Then I would paraphrase what you heard.

See oftentimes, especially if we feel threatened or under attack, which even the slightest bit of critical feedback can trigger our brain into thinking that we don’t listen as well as we think we do. It’s also really common to focus on the negative and blow it up bigger than what it is. If you get into an argument with someone and you tell them five things that they are doing right. And one thing that bugs you, they’re going to focus on that one thing, right? And that is exactly what can happen in these situations.

You can hear positive feedback. But then here one negative thing and it could trigger, say, a previous work experience that you had or a fear that you have and it could be blown into something bigger. So repeat back in your own words, what you understand the feedback to be just to be sure that you’re clear now, this next step is important. Take a moment and ask the person if it isn’t clear how they would envision you, adjusting or changing your behavior to incorporate that feedback. There can be a lot lost in translation between what is said and how to implement or make a change.

I also have heard a lot from people that they get feedback and they don’t really know what they’re supposed to do differently. They think that they’re already doing what is needed and they don’t understand the feedback or don’t know how to go about it. Or maybe they interpreted it as something different and they disagree and so they just don’t do anything with it. So open this up as a conversation so you can really understand what the person is looking for and how if you choose, you can be successful at meeting their expectations.

Don’t be afraid to use examples.

Just be sure to leave the conversation with clarity. Now for my researchers and scientists out there, you might like this next step and that is for you to get curious and do some digging to validate the feedback. Did this feedback come from one person? Is it from a group of people who are the people? How often does this feedback come up now?

You might get some of these questions answered during your conversation. But if you remove the threat and can just be curious for the sake of learning and come from a neutral place, you can get a better understanding of not just how true the feedback is because it is true in the experience of the person who offered it to you, but also how other people are seeing this feedback to how other people are experiencing. You related to this feedback that you heard and I did a whole episode on the importance of curiosity recently and so you can apply that concept here instead of thinking I didn’t do this or this isn’t true.

I’m going to disprove it or the opposite reaction, which could be I’m a failure and I need to do better and I’m never going anywhere. Just take a step back and be curious.

How could this feedback be true if you wanted to believe this and make a positive change, what would you need to do? What data would you need to collect? Who could you talk to? That could help you see this differently. This will give you a lot of context, so let’s recap.

You’ve received the feedback. You took a breath and said, thank you. You paraphrased the feedback for understanding. You asked for clarification on what success would look like and you are curious to get more feedback to validate and contextualize the feedback. Now the next step is to look at your data, the feedback you received, and ask yourself, how do you think the feedback is true?

How is it not true? Disprove both. If you were to make this change, what could the benefits be for you? What could the benefits be for your company? What would the drawbacks be?

I want you to put all of this together and look at it as objectively as possible. And then make a plan for integration. How will you make the change? How will you keep yourself honest and accountable? What feedback do you want ongoing to be sure that you’re on track, don’t implement and assume you’re doing awesome and then get surprised when a few months later you get the same feedback, check in with your stakeholders with your boss and make sure you’re on track.

All right. So that is a strong strategy for receiving feedback that is going to change. We’ve probably been handling feedback so far, and this is really going to help you with this next performance cycle. So let’s now get into how to give feedback. I purposely covered receiving feedback first because I think one everyone receives feedback, but not everyone gives it.

And two, it gives a good perspective of what it’s like to receive feedback, which will help when we talk about giving it. When preparing to give feedback, think about the other person’s communication preferences. Do they need time to think and process? Do they like to talk things through? Do they like it straight, or do they receive feedback better with a little finesse?

Keep in mind that how you deliver the feedback to one person may be different from another. They may have different needs because there are different people. Then when you go into the meeting before sharing the feedback, ask for permission to give the feedback before dropping it. And I’m making an assumption here that this feedback is being given in a meeting either virtually or in person. Please do not share critical feedback or performance feedback written over email.

If it’s part of the performance improvement plan, then that’s something that you follow up the verbal or the face to face meeting with the written to confirm understanding and that you are on the same page. I understand that the documentation may be needed, but an employee should not hear critical feedback, especially for the first time in an email, because that is, it doesn’t allow for the other person to process to ask questions. A lot can be misunderstood. So let’s assume that you’re having a face to face meeting or a virtual meeting.

A verbal conversation.

When you go into that meeting, ask for permission. Even if it is during a scheduled time to go over someone’s performance, I would still ask is now a good time to talk about some feedback I received or I received some feedback that I like to share with you. Are you open to hearing it? This will help the tone of the conversation be more collaborative and help the other person be receptive. It reduces the fight or flight or freeze response that some people can have.

It can reduce defensiveness or escalation. So start with asking permission. Then guess what. I want you to share the feedback, incorporating some of the guidance that I just gave you for receiving feedback. So share the feedback and be as neutral as possible, as awful as the feedback is don’t make it about the person you don’t know their story.

You can’t make assumptions, just share it neutrally and pause to let the other person respond, then be open to their interpretation and perspective of the feedback and be curious yourself about the lens that they are using, what could cause their reaction and how can you meet them where they are if needed, you can take a break and revisit the feedback because what happens sometimes is let’s say you’re a manager and you’re delivering feedback that is critical from a stakeholder who shared that they had a negative experience with your employee.

If you go in strong and assume that that experience is factual and disregard the perspective or experience of your employee, it’s going to break trust with the employee, and you cannot guarantee that your stakeholder or client’s perspective is the only truth in this situation. So approach it with curiosity of how this came to be, of how the person that reports to you, how they could be interpreting this feedback. Maybe what their story is. Your job here is to share the feedback that you got.

Share it neutrally and share what you want to change. But the way that you do that can be with respect with open mindedness, and if needed, you can take a break and revisit the feedback. If this is something that is creating an emotional reaction, an escalating situation, you can always revisit the feedback, give the person time to process when you’re preparing the feedback. If you have additional examples and your expectations for change, that can be really helpful for the person receiving it. So prepare that in advance.

And don’t be surprised if you’re asked, especially if they listen to this episode. Now, one last thing I would suggest is to leave the meeting with an action, whether it be time to process, to get more information or just to check in on progress. Proactive and intentional feedback can really help growth skyrocket. Remember that your employee or the person that you are delivering the feedback to most likely wants to do well wants to improve. They may also have a perspective that is very different from what you’ve heard or experienced.

They are also different from you and may receive information differently, so allow them space and a plan to get support and enable them to rise to the occasion and they will.

All right, there you have. It a strategy for giving and receiving feedback to get you through this performance cycle, staying true to who you are and getting the outcome that you want. I will see you here, same time, same place next week. Have a wonderful week.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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