We have all received various types of feedback from our earliest years.
As tiny children, most of it came from our parents or those responsible for our upbringing, and as we grew so it followed us through school, college, university and business and remains in our everyday lives.
There is no such thing as failure; merely feedback
The importance of feedback, however, will vary according to its source, the expertise of the giver and its manner.
We have all read ill-informed and inane comments on website pages given by those who usually have nothing better to do and which achieve nothing except some sort of gratification for the commenter.
Equally, most of us have some sort of childhood experience of feedback from poorly trained and ineffective teachers.
I remember as a 7-year-old being smacked around the ear by a female teacher (who was probably showing off in front of another teacher) as she derided my feeble attempts to paint a picture.
Showing feedback in that way did nothing but convince me that I couldn’t draw or paint so I entered that class unable to draw and left it in the same way.
It didn’t help me but should have been effective feedback for the teacher’s pathetic efforts.
Two years later (so only 9 years’ old) I was humiliated in front of a class of 42 because the male teacher couldn’t hear my oral responses to his questions. His constant shouting made my answers even more timid.
Finally, he completely lost his patience, asked me to cross the corridor to an empty classroom on the other side, go to the far wall and shout.
By this time, my confidence had been so utterly shattered that I could barely bring myself to whisper.
At this stage he contented himself by sending me back to my seat and mocking me in front of my classmates.
You see that sort of bullying feedback when we were young children did nothing to serve us, or anyone else except perhaps the ego of the bully.
What adult, though, you may think, could gain satisfaction from bullying a 9 or 7-year-9 old child?
Many, many years later, I can still recall those episodes, because they are powerful negative anchors.
But I can also recall an outstanding teacher, who acted as a powerfully positive anchor in my life.
At 10 years old I came top of my class when taught by Peter Cainey, who I have no hesitation in naming. The bullies we can completely ignore.
What was so special about Peter Cainey, you may ask? Peter Cainey bothered to get positive rapport with his pupils rather than bullying them.
He took time to encourage and cajole although he was no pushover; he exercised instead a kindly but firm discipline.
Under Peter Cainey’s watchful eye, I found no difficulty reciting poetry confidently and in a clear voice before an equally large class.
I was the same child and it was hardly twelve months after I had been mockingly sent back to my seat for failing to speak up.
It might be said, of course, that all this is character building and it teaches us to be strong. I suppose it very much depends upon the individual.
As it happens, it didn’t affect my life in any adverse sense, but I have seen it break people whose confidence has been completely wrecked.
It is as well, perhaps, to bear that in mind throughout life when we are showing feedback to others.
Sometimes we receive feedback and other times we give it.
The importance of feedback is growing in society. Course providers often ask for feedback from their attendees.
Sellers very often ask for feedback from buyers. In many industries it is considered to be good practice to seek feedback.
Feedback, constructively and thoughtfully given, may be very useful for a business or service provider.
It will enable him to identify positive and negative aspects of the goods sold or service provided, and a good businessman or woman will be keen to improve poor quality.
My early experiences of feedback at school have, I am sure, shaped my own approach to giving feedback as an employer and senior manager.
Faced with poor performers, I really cannot see any benefit for them or for the team or business by humiliating them in front of others.
It is so important to get into rapport. In such circumstances, I believe in giving greater 1:1 attention and additional training so that they have every opportunity to improve.
If they still don’t improve, it may be they need persuading that they are in the wrong job, but in the meantime they will be much more likely to improve if they feel safe and comfortable with my management of them.
If, instead, they are constantly berated and told that they are doing this, that and the other wrongly, their confidence is more likely to plummet and they will go from bad to worse.
I recall a charming senior officer called Cyril House in an organisation with which I am connected who has, sadly, now passed to a higher calling.
Whenever a newbie made a speech, however hesitatingly, he would smile and applaud loudly when the speaker resumed his seat.
He would follow up by placing his arms around the speaker’s shoulders, congratulating him and saying, “That’s the way to do it. It would have been even better if ….” and then add suggestions of his own for the next time.
Not surprisingly, Cyril was well-liked and very good at what he did. He was always pleased to see the newbie grow in confidence after that.
Most of us are pleased to give feedback but we are a little more hesitant about receiving it for fear of what it might contain.
That is a very important point to remember when it is actually our turn to give it.
If we consider we have had a poor service, we can make that point without being arrogant, destructive or abusive.
Before giving it, consider what you might consider more effective if you were on the receiving end.
We can all help organisations and people to give a better service or performance if we start by telling them what they did well and then add a bit about what they might do better next time.
So focus on the good and what they might improve upon. Don’t reinforce what didn’t work by dwelling upon it.
Remember in NLP there is no such thing as failure, only feedback and, properly given, it will help to improve the situation for everyone next time.
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