Hey Girl, Your Slip Is Hanging
I was having coffee with one of my coaches and noticed a women walking into the restaurant with three men. She was wearing a lovely wrap dress and her slip provided an extra two inches of leg coverage. I wondered if the men noticed and were too uncomfortable to say anything. So, I excused myself from the conversation, approached the woman, complimented her on her dress, and whispered that her slip was hanging. She thanked me, and I returned to my conversation.
We usually welcome this kind of feedback; it helps us avoid embarrassment. Now, imagine the feedback was from a colleague sharing her observation about an interaction that did not serve you well. Maybe it is a comment from your boss about a performance issue. While this kind of feedback can catch you off guard and get your defenses up, it also serves a purpose. This type of feedback clues you into our blind spots, and provides insight into how others perceive you.
Feedback is an important aspect of a successful and fulfilling career. Positive feedback reinforces strengths. Constructive feedback informs development and can enhance individual effectiveness. The reality is that feedback (positive or constructive) is not as free flowing as it should be. Many leaders practice the adage that “no news is good news” – just keep up the good work! They do not realize that positive feedback fuels intentionally regarding the use of performance strengths.
When it comes to constructive feedback, sometimes leaders fear what the reaction might be, which is why it is so important to be receptive and non-defensive when you do get feedback. Here are five tips for receiving feedback in a way that will encourage more of it.
- Assume positive intent. When someone is courageous enough to give you constructive feedback, he/she usually has your best interest in mind. Consider that person as someone that wants to see you succeed.
- Listen. This can be hard to do because the natural instinct is to “explain why.” However, it does not matter why if the behavior does not reflect positively. Feedback is information. Information provides knowledge. Knowledge is power.
- Say Thank You. Feedback is indeed a gift. Expressing sincere thanks will send a message that you want to grow. Let the person know if you are open to similar conversations in the future. Be grateful for the insight and process the information with a trusted colleague or mentor later.
- Take Action. The best way to show gratitude is to take steps to change your behavior. It sends a message that you value the insight provided and demonstrates agility and a willingness to change.
- Ask for Feedback. If you use the “hanging slip” as a metaphor for well-meaning feedback, it might be easier to ask for it. Ask trusted colleagues and friends to give you a heads up when your slip is hanging – metaphorically, that is.