Imagine this: You are walking around work feeling pretty good. You feel that your last few meetings and projects went well, you contributed to the discussion and added value to the organization through your role. All in all, a decent week.
And then, you see an executive you know in the hallway and he says, “I want to share some feedback with you, stop by my desk later.” And your stomach sinks. You think about those meetings and projects again. Did you speak too much? Have too much of an opinion? Miss a deadline? You stop by his office, he’s not there. Give it another 30 minutes, stop by again. Not there. This one sentence is ruining your productivity. You are just going over projects and nervously inventing excuses to swing by his office one more time. And then finally at the end of the day, you catch him. You try to be casual, as if this simple touch base hasn’t been the focus of your day. The good thing is, you are ready. You are ready for feedback.
You are ready to do all the things you hear you should do when receiving feedback. You will actively listen, not just listen to respond, and you will not react impulsively. You know your response shouldn’t be defensive, and if you need to process the bad news that is inevitably going to be shared with you, then you should ask if you can meet again in a few days. You have braced yourself.
This is what happened to me, and then I had the most pleasant surprise. The leader says, “I wanted to tell you that you always have a positive attitude, always a smile on your face, and it is so refreshing!” Wait, what? I think I responded thank you, but in that moment, I was stunned into silence. I left his office overwhelmed, but also with the biggest smile on my face. My day had completely changed.
That is why I remind my team and my colleagues frequently that feedback often has a negative connotation when it can, in fact, be positive. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, feedback is defined as, “the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source.” Evaluative or corrective, not only corrective. Providing feedback is not an opportunity to criticize, which is what it has become known for. Feedback should be an evaluation of both the positive and negative aspects of a work product or work style.
In order to change that perception and help colleagues become better versions of themselves, it is important to remind yourself to think of a piece of positive feedback for every negative one. Sometimes, that can be a challenge, but consider the impact on my day, attitude and productivity in being told that a business leader had feedback to share with me. Then, consider the effect of his positive feedback. And, considering that day happened more than four years ago and still brings a smile to my face, imagine the impact that positive feedback has on my attitude every day.