Lessons Learned From Failed Feedback
29 February, 2020
VP of Engineering at Indeed
I was at a presentation given by a senior executive. During the Q&A portion a question was asked of him that came across a bit entitled from the attendee. He tried to respond in a sober, dispassionate way but instead the tone of his voice and facial expression telegraphed frustration, impatience, and a little bit of disdain. Having been around this person, I knew that was not the intended effect, so I decided to give him feedback on the situation.
Later, I happened to be in a different meeting with this senior executive. After the conclusion of the main part of the meeting I went up to him and told him what I had observed during the earlier Q&A portion. I did it in a non-accusatory fashion but I brought it up out of nowhere. It had no relation to the meeting we were just in, making it a less than ideal setting. Plus, although I knew this person, he was not somebody that I had a high degree of intimacy and trust with.
Despite there being no clear blow back, the whole encounter felt clumsy and ineffective. Clumsy because I gave feedback in a way that relied on a nature of relationship that clearly didn’t exist. It would have been better to speak to someone on this subject whom I had a better pre-existing relationship with. Also, the conversation was too spontaneous. Finally, I didn’t set the stage properly. It was a private conversation yet it took place in a physical situation where other people were around and could listen in. Even though I didn’t consider the information super sensitive, I did not establish safety and receptivity necessary for effective feedback.
- If you don’t have that trusted relationship with somebody, consider not providing feedback. A huge part of feedback has to do with how receptive the other person is. If you are not able to establish that receptivity then the information will bounce right off.
- Be sure that you give feedback in a private situation. Set a safe space where the other person doesn’t feel intimidated or defensive.
- Set the stage for feedback. Make sure it’s done at an appropriate time so that the other person isn’t distracted. Find a way to break away and transition from the previous agenda into giving feedback.
- Typically I believe that there is too little feedback given and so I am not happy with how this situation went. I don’t want to give people another reason to be hesitant about giving feedback. So I hope that my failed attempt can be useful to others. This is an example of how giving feedback didn’t go well so I encourage others to learn from my mistakes and give feedback often.
Ian Langworth, CTO at Wilbur Labs, has had some defining moments in his career, and many of them have come as he utilized the resources around him. Without support, your career and personal growth may not grow at your desired pace. From an executive coach to books, Ian happily speaks on the value that these things can provide based on his transformational experiences with them.
CTO at Wilbur Labs
Ian Langworth, CTO at Wilbur Labs, utilizes his tech industry experience and exposure to help other founders and individuals with less familiarity solve problems and challenges they have faced or will face. Though he does not consider himself a thought leader, he understands that everyone has a level of value they can provide to the world. He happily shares this by getting involved in different communities. In this story, he discusses going from an engineer to a founder to helping people in online communities to assisting another founder in hiring an engineer for the first time.
CTO at Wilbur Labs
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