How a simple piece of feedback propelled a career
Receiving the right message at the right time can yield some powerful results:
The practical: don’t take the highway, it’s been backed up for an hour.
The helpful: you’ve got a little something stuck in your teeth.
The transformational: something unique to you that you didn’t know, needed to hear, or that launched you in a whole new direction.
Pamela Findling, Communications Manager with AFL in Surrey, BC, received some feedback early in her career which, 20 years later, has not only stuck with her, but encouraged her to take the same giving approach with others. She shares the delivery, the immediate impact, and the long-term effect of a few spoken words:
The Feedback: I took a drama class in my first year of college. One day, after one of our verbal exercises, the instructor told me that I had a lilt at the end of my sentences, and it made me sound like I was constantly questioning myself. This simple feedback immediately made me more aware of how others viewed me, and how my speech pattern undermined the confidence which I thought I’d been projecting. It had enough of a profound impact on how I carried myself moving forward, that I pass on the same feedback to others, whenever I notice those questioning sentences.
Routine feedback during a class exercise would’ve been easy to brush off, but Pamela chose to listen and to act. Reflecting on why she was able to receive that feedback, she notes that it was delivered in a kind and helpful manner, and that it spoke directly to her values. The formula for delivering feedback with success, as presented in Kim Scott’s Radical Candor is to challenge directly, and to care personally, at the same time. Without that investment in the person—the human—your feedback can land the wrong way and have the opposite effect which was intended.
The Delivery: The instructor didn’t deliver the feedback as criticism—he mentioned that females have a greater tendency to raise their voice at the end of sentences, which can result in sounding unconfident. He also hit a key nerve for me. I have always been very career-minded, and the thought that my speech patterns would give people the opposite impression of me was an absolute eyeopener. Not breaking this habit would’ve likely had a big impact on my future.
Solid feedback has such a lasting impact, it’s a curiosity why we would hesitate to share observations and ideas with people we care about, whether colleagues, friends, or family. Finding the right moment can be tough—but rarely in life do perfect moments for anything exist. Often, we just need to get it done.
Staying open to feedback: The female voice issue still pops up from time to time, and I must apply the feedback again. Recently, I was working on a group project as part of my master’s program at Royal Roads University. I was speaking, and a classmate cut me off, telling me not to start one more sentence with “I’m sorry but…” I hadn’t realized I was doing it, but her bluntness was followed by encouragement to never apologize for my opinions and ideas. Perhaps an abrupt delivery of feedback, but it told me she cared, and that she thought my ideas—and I—were valuable.
Feedback is a bit of a risk, to be sure. We don’t know how it will be received, even if it was requested. And our own responses to others’ opinions and thoughts about us aren’t always perfect. Something relatively small can become that final push we need, just as a tough topic to tackle can be met with thanks (or no thanks). But when we care—about people, about results, about being an exceptional leader—it’s worth it.
Feedback skills need some polishing? If you - or your whole team - would benefit from some support in both giving and receiving feedback, contact us! Smart Savvy Academy offers a full-day workshop on Feedback and its role in fueling a culture of growth.
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